Calcium silicate enhances resistance of sugarcane to the African stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)

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1 The stalk borer Eldana saccharina is the most destructive pest in sugarcane in South Africa. This study investigated: (1) the potential of applied silicon in enhancing plant resistance of sugarcane to E. saccharina, using calcium silicate as a carrier; (2) whether there was any interaction between cane variety (and stalk borer resistance) and silicon treatment.

2 Six commercial varieties of sugarcane were treated in a pot-plant trial with two levels (5000 and 10 000 kg/ha) of calcium silicate. After artificial infestation with E. saccharina, response to the treatments was assessed in terms of borer numbers and mass, and stalk damage.

3 Calcium silicate significantly enhanced resistance at the higher rate compared with the control. Borer mass was reduced by 19.8% and stalk length bored by 24.4%. Lower treatment values were intermediate between those of the higher treatment and the control.

4 The interaction between variety and Si treatment was not significant when varieties were examined individually in the analysis. However, the interaction was significant for borer mass when varieties were grouped according to their resistance characteristics. Susceptible varieties might benefit more from treatment with silicon than resistant ones, as resistant varieties showed no significant effect of silicon.

5 All varieties had increased silicon content due to the treatments, but differed appreciably in stalk silicon content at the different treatment levels. Similarly, within varieties, stalk silicon content did not correspond consistently with borer response patterns and silicate application rates.

Keywords: Calcium silicate; Eldana saccharina; host-plant resistance; insect pest; silicon; soil nutrients; stalk borer; sugarcane; variety

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2002

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