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Associations between host-plant nitrogen and infestations of the sugarcane borer, Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)

  • P. R. Atkinson (a1) and K. J. Nuss (a1)
Abstract

Infestations of Eldana saccharina Walker in South Africa are higher in intensively-grown than in peasant-grown sugarcane, and are worse in water-stressed plants. Although field trials showed negligible increases in the incidence of the pest with applied nitrogen, the degree in which the degree of water stress could not be controlled. Pot-plant trials, in which the degree of water stress was controlled as well as the amount of fertilizer, showed that the combination of nitrogen with stress resulted in increased survival of larvae and greatly increased biomass with shortened development times. Adults did not appear to choose stressed or fertilized plants in preference to normal or unfertilized ones. In every case, whether in the field or in insectary trials, increased infestation levels were associated with increased stalk total nitrogen. Amino acid determinations showed that the balance of individual acids did not appear to alter but that the balance of individual acids did not appear to alter but that glyphosate ripener had a similar effect to water stress, increasing all amino acids together. Infestations in older cane were disproportionately higher than in younger cane, weight for weight, despite reduced levels of stalk nitrogen. This anomaly may be due to the presence of phenolic compounds in younger cane, or in cane tops. Levels of nitrogen are much higher in the feeding sites of the insect in natural host-plants than in cane stalks, and the fecundity of feral moths natural hosts appeared to be higher than that of moths from sugarcane. The insect appears to have invaded sugarcane when stalk nitrogen levels reached sufficiently high levels for its survival as a result of intensive cultivation.

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Bulletin of Entomological Research
  • ISSN: 0007-4853
  • EISSN: 1475-2670
  • URL: /core/journals/bulletin-of-entomological-research
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