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Host–parasitoid population density prediction using artificial neural networks: diamondback moth and its natural enemies

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• An integrated pest management (IPM) system incorporating the introduction and field release of Diadegma semiclausum (Hellén), a parasitoid of diamondback moth (DBM) Plutella xylostella (L.), comprising the worst insect pest of the cabbage family, has been developed in Kenya to replace the pesticides-only approach.

• Mathematical modelling using differential equations has been used in theoretical studies of host–parasitoid systems. Although, this method helps in gaining an understanding of the system's dynamics, it is generally less accurate when used for prediction. The artificial neural network (ANN) approach was therefore chosen to aid prediction.

• The ANN methodology was applied to predict the population density of the DBM and D. semiclausum, its larval parasitoid. Two data sets, each from different release areas in the Kenya highlands, and both collected during a 3-year period after the release of the parasitoid, were used in the present study. Two ANN models were developed using these data.

• The ANN approach gave satisfactory results for DBM and for D. semiclausum. Sensitivity analysis suggested that pest populations may be naturally controlled by rainfall.

• The ANN provides a powerful tool for predicting host–parasitoid population densities and made few assumptions on the field data. The approach allowed the use of data collected at any appropriate scale of the system, bypassing the assumptions and uncertainties that could have occurred when parameters are imported from other systems. The methodology can be explored with respect to the development of tools for monitoring and forecasting the population densities of a pest and its natural enemies. In addition, the model can be used to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the natural enemies and to investigate augmentative biological control strategies.

Keywords: Artificial neural networks; Diadegma semiclausum (Hellén); Kenya; Plutella xylostella (L.); population density; prediction

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-08-01

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