McPherson and other scientists with the College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences are working to help Georgia farmers grow more soybeans more profitably. Soybeans have lost acreage in the state in recent years. But the numbers have picked up inthe past two years. Georgia farmers planted 430,000 acres to soybeans in 1997, a 7.5percent increase over 1996. “We’re seeing more insects in the field this year than we have in the past five or six,” saidBob McPherson, a University of Georgia scientist. “Some varieties are devastated by insects,” he said. “Some are resistant, and we’re learningthe best ones to plant so farmers don’t have to spray as many pesticides.” “Often, we’ll get varieties the scientists from other states record as insect-resistant, withmaybe 20 percent of the foliage eaten by insects,” he said. “Here they’ll destroy 60 or 70percent. It’s a whole new ball game.” These varieties come from all over the Southeast. “They send their test varieties herebecause we’ve got so many insects,” McPherson said. A light year for insects in Georgia,particularly south Georgia, is worse than a bad year in most states around us. This has been a great year for insects in Georgia. Lots of them out there attacking andeating everything they find. Farm crops provide a virtual buffet for dozens of insectspecies that eat their fill, reproduce and keep eating. McPherson said that’s good for the farmer and the environment. If farmers don’t have tospray as often, their cost to grow soybeans drops. And it puts fewer chemicals into the airand potentially into the water. Soybeans appear in the most unlikely places in your daily life. John Woodruff, anextension agronomist, said the average person has about 15 contacts with soybeanproducts every day. It’s in everything from lipstick to crackers and even ink. It’s not so much that they’re resistant, he said, as that some varieties tolerate insect damageand still produce a good crop. McPherson, an entomologist at the UGA Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga.,is working on a test that shows which of 27 soybean varieties are most insect-resistant. That’s not-so-good news for farmers. But it’s great for researchers.