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Dispersal and spatial distribution of western corn rootworm larvae in relation to root phenology

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Despite the increasing economic importance of root feeding pests such as the western corn rootworm (WCR) Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, basic parameters about their below ground biology are only partly understood. The present study investigated the dispersal and distribution of WCR larvae in the maize root system during their development at two growth stages of maize (BBCH 13–14 and BBCH 17–18).

Dispersal of the WCR larvae increased as they developed; the larvae moved off their original place of emergence and into deeper soil layers. Overall, changes in the horizontal distribution of the larvae were more extensive than changes in the vertical distribution.

The spatial analysis of distance indices revealed that the larvae had an aggregative distribution throughout their development. The feeding site of larvae in the root system was determined by the stage of larval development. Initially, WCR larvae started feeding in close proximity to their emergence location and moved to more developed root tissue towards the end of their development.

Differences in root phenology mainly influenced the distribution of the larvae at the end of their development, when larvae exhibited increased vertical movement at a later growth stage of maize.

The mechanisms of these distributional changes and the implications for the management of WCR larvae are discussed, especially with regard to chemical control, because fewer larvae are expected to be targeted at a later growth stage of maize.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2012

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