Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

International Soybean Arthropod Collection

The International Soybean Arthropod Collection (ISAC) is a large, commodity-oriented assemblage of insects and other arthropods that is supported by an electronically maintained database containing taxonomic and ecological information. ISAC was begun in 1970 to survey arthropods of soybeans and document their ecological associations from soybean-producing areas of the United States and the world, monitor the major pest species and their natural enemies for possible changes in geographic distribution through time, and provide arthropod identification services for soybean researchers, extension specialists, and producers around the world.

The extensive assemblage of arthropods associated with soybeans is unique. ISAC currently comprises nearly 300,000 arthropod specimens. Extensive as well as intensive arthropod surveys of all the major soybean growing regions of the United States were undertaken in the early to mid-1970s. That material serves as the backbone of the collection. In addition, the collection contains arthropods from over 40 other countries. The only other collection that comes close in coverage of commodity-associated arthropods is the rice arthropod collection maintained at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

Quantitative as well as qualitative data are associated with most of the specimens because these specimens were sampled in a quantitative manner. Thus, population density information is associated with most of the samples, something that can be used to compare densities among sampled sites. Beyond this, meaningful data about soybean cultivar, planting practices, prior pesticide use, neighboring crops, weediness of field, and other ecological factors are tied to each specimen through a set of detailed, site-specific data sheets.

Such a collection could yield tremendously important information about arthropod communities associated with soybeans in differing environmental zones and under differing cultural practices. The collection includes both phytophagous arthropods and their natural enemies; thus, critical information about the effect of pesticide use on predators and parasitoids could be teased from the data. Valuable insights into the trophic complexities of arthropods in soybean fields in different parts of the world can be gleaned from the collection. There can be no doubt that this is a unique and priceless database, one that contains information that can help interpret biological and ecological relationships from the very practical to the very basic. Unfortunately, this unique and valuable collection was mothballed more than 10 years ago when, for lack of funds, the International Soybean Program's commitment to the collection waned. During the collection's heyday, hundreds of thousands of dollars were expended on expeditions, curation, and storage. The collection is housed with the INHS Insect Collection, but it remains to be seen if a funding source can be found to revitalize the collection.

Michael E. Irwin, Center for Economic Entomology

Illinois Natural History Survey

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