Andrew (Andy) Michel

Andrew (Andy) Michel, Associate Professor and Interim Associate Chair, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University

Andrew Michel grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, far away from any farmland. When he enrolled in Purdue University, he fell in love with entomology and the world of agriculture.

“It felt like a whole new world opened up to me outside of the suburbs, a whole new area of research possibilities,” said Michel.  

Michel is now an associate professor at The Ohio State University Department of Entomology and a member of the OSU Soybean Center team. He is interested in how insects adapt to environmental changes on a genetic level and how that information can help farmers use sustainable tools like resistant plants to adapt to the insects.

His lab has been keeping a particularly close eye on the invasion of new pests like the brown marmorated stink bug. In neighboring states like Pennsylvania, the infestations are so bad that people can be found sweeping them off their porches into five-gallon buckets.

“A colleague told me a story of a combine that caught fire. As it was harvesting soybeans, the intake valve got so clogged with brown marmorated stink bugs that it just killed the engine,” said Michel.
Ohio hasn’t seen those kind of populations yet. Michel and his colleagues want to make sure they never do and that farmers are ready to ward them off and protect their crops.

He goes out into the field regularly to help farmers learn to identify and scout for stink bugs and other pests. Interacting with growers is Michel’s favorite part of the job.

“I love getting out in the field and talking to growers to come up with real, practical solutions that can help them,” said Michel. “It helps put my recommendations in perspective as well. It’s easy for me to tell a grower to spray or not spray but, at the end of the day, it’s not my livelihood out in that field. It’s theirs.”

He tries to spread the message of give-and-take learning to the younger generation of scientists as well. During the summers, he hires students from the local liberal arts college in Wooster who have suburban or urban backgrounds.

“When we get out to a field, I can show them soybean plants that have aphids all over them,” he said. “They quickly realize that, yes, sometimes growers do need to spray. It’s not all about organic or not using pesticides.”

Michel cites the Ohio Soybean Council’s funding as vital to his work developing resources for farmers, including the recent soybean aphid genome sequence.