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Fertilizer affects the behaviour and performance of Plutella xylostella on brassicas

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1 Foliar nitrogen concentration, which can be manipulated in crop plants by fertilizer supply, has long been recognized as a major factor in phytophagous insect abundance and performance. More recently, the type of fertilizer supplied has been shown to influence the abundance of some herbivore species. The diamondback moth Plutella xylostella is a global pest of Brassica crops. Although it has been the subject of numerous studies on host-plant resistance and pest control, few studies have addressed the effect of abiotic factors, such as nutrient supply, on its performance and behaviour.

2 We assessed oviposition preference, larval feeding preference and larval performance of P. xylostella on two cultivars of Brassica oleracea. Plants were grown using two fertilizer types, John Innes fertilizer and an organic animal manure, at high and low concentrations.

3 Plutella xylostella laid more eggs on cultivar Derby Day than Drago. Derby Day was also the cultivar on which larval performance was maximized. However, differences in larval performance between cultivars were only found when plants were grown in compost with John Innes fertilizer, and not when fertilized with animal manure.

4 Foliar nitrogen concentration was greater in plants grown in high fertilizer treatments but did not differ between cultivars. The concentrations of three glucosinolate compounds (glucoiberin, sinigrin and glucobrassicin) were greater in the high fertilizer treatments. Glucosinolate concentrations were higher in the Drago than the Derby Day cultivar.

5 These results are discussed in relation to the preference-performance hypothesis, and the assessment of plant resistance differences between cultivars using different types of fertilizer.
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Keywords: Diamondback moth; Lepidoptera; glucobrassicin; glucoiberin; glucosinolate; nitrogen; oviposition; pupal weight; relative growth rate; sinigrin

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Hampshire SO16 7PX, U.K.

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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