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Discrimination among host plants (Leucaena species and accessions) by the psyllid pest Heteropsylla cubana and implications for understanding resistance

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1 The herbivorous bug Heteropsylla cubana Crawford (Homoptera: Psyllidae) is a pest of the cattle fodder crop Leucaena (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae). The interaction between the psyllid and three varieties of its Leucaena host plant was investigated in relation to the apparent resistance of some Leucaena varieties (Leucaena leucocephala, Leucaena pallida and their hybrids) to attack.

2 Field trials demonstrated that adult psyllids distinguished among the different varieties of Leucaena over a distance, and were attracted to L. leucocephala in significantly higher numbers than to L. pallida or to the hybrid. Pesticide treatment increased the attractiveness of Leucaena plants, even of those deemed to be psyllid resistant. Numbers of psyllid eggs and nymphs, sampled in the field, reflect the arrival rates of adults at the three plant varieties.

3 Wavelength reflectance data of the three Leucaena varieties were not significantly different from one another, suggesting that psyllids cannot discriminate among the three plants using brightness or wavelength cues. There was a differential release of caryophyllene among the three varieties. Release of caryophyllene in L. leucocephala and the hybrid appeared to be influenced by environmental conditions.

4 Experiments demonstrated that caryophyllene (at least on its own) did not influence the behaviour of leucaena psyllids in relation to leucaena plants.

5 The results suggest that host plant volatiles cannot be dismissed as significant in the interaction between the leucaena psyllid and its Leucaena host plants. Further avenues for investigation are recommended and these are related to novel ways of understanding resistance in insect plant inter-relationships.

Keywords: Attractance; caryophyllene; chemical cues; heterosis; host finding; hybrid; plant chemistry; plant–herbivore interactions

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Zoology and Entomology, School of Life Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia

Publication date: 2005-05-01

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