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Corn Defense Responses to Nitrogen Availability and Subsequent Performance and Feeding Preferences of Beet Armyworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

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Many studies have reported the effect of nitrogen (N) fertilization on plant constitutive defense responses; however, little is known about their effects on plant induced defense patterns and its consequence for insect herbivores. In our experiments, the effects of N availability on growth, nutritional quality (N content, protein/carbohydrate [P:C] ratio, modified gross energy [MGE]), and constitutive phenolics of corn, Zea mays L. were quantified. Moreover, the indirect effects of N fertilization on the beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua Hübner through larval performance and feeding preference were examined. N fertilization increased plant growth, and depressed defense traits by increasing N content and the P:C ratio, as well as decreasing the constitutive concentration of phenolics. Subsequently, beet armyworm showed higher performance and preferentially fed on high-N corn because of its low defense traits. After beet armyworm feeding, high-N corn significantly deterred larval feeding, and had negative effects on the performance of beet armyworm through decreasing P:C ratio and increasing induced phenolics. On the contrary, there were no significant changes in P:C ratio and phenolics in low-N corn after feeding damage. Larval performance and preference were also not affected by induced compounds in low-N corn, which suggested that the expression of induced defense was dependent on N availability. The result indicates that N availability can exert a variety of bottom-up effect on plant defense patterns to influence insect population dynamics, and thereby may represent a source of variation in plant-insect interactions.

Keywords: N availability; Spodoptera exigua; Zea mays; insect-plant interactions

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC12091

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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