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Temporal and spatial variability of rosy apple aphid Dysaphis plantaginea populations: is there a role of the alternate host plant Plantago major?

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• The rosy apple aphid Dysaphis plantaginea (Passerini) (Homoptera: Aphididae) is a pest of economic importance to the apple industry worldwide, particularly in organic apple orchards where no acceptable controls are available. In the Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada, the rosy apple aphid population size varies widely between orchards and between years. To explain this variation, potential environmental correlates of aphid density were evaluated. The architecture of the alternate host was also evaluated for its effect on rosy apple aphid summer survival and reproduction.

• The percentage of trees infested by rosy apple aphids among orchards was in the range 8–94% for trees having at least one cluster with more than ten aphids in 2007 and in the range 0–39% in 2008.

• A general linear model correlating aphid densities to the environmental variables of abundance of the alternate host (plantain Plantago spp.), foliar nitrogen, tree age and planting density, and reduced by stepwise regression, indicated that foliar nitrogen and tree age explained 33% of the variation. Abundance of the summer, alternate food plant, plantain, was not related to later aphid densities on apple trees.

• Plantain architecture, however, influenced aphid numbers and 25-fold more aphids were found on low-lying plantain leaves than on more upright leaves. Experimental manipulation of leaf angle and leaf size showed that significantly more aphids occurred on low angle, large leaves. Finally, mowing that encouraged low lying plants prior to spring aphid migration was associated with a four-fold greater number of both winged and wingless aphids on the plantain.
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Keywords: Alternate host; apple IPM; cultural control; organic; plant architecture; rosy apple aphid

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-11-01

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