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Ingestion and excretion of nitrogen by larvae of a cabbage armyworm: the effects of fertilizer application

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• Insect frass has significant impacts on decomposition and soil nitrogen dynamics. Although the frass contains various forms of nitrogen that may differently influence nitrogen dynamics in the decomposition process, how the nitrogen form in the insect frass is influenced by host plant quality remains poorly understood.

• The present study examined the effects of application of fertilizer on leaf quality of Brassica rapa L. var. perviridis Bailey (Brassicaceae), and on the consumption, frass excretion and frass quality of its insect pest Mamestra brassicae (L.) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), with a particular focus on the dynamics of inorganic nitrogen.

Brassica rapa increased total nitrogen concentration, and accumulated inorganic nitrogen [i.e. leaf nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) and ammonium-nitrogen (NH4+-N)] in the leaves in response to the application of fertilizer.

• Although leaf consumption and frass excreted by M. brassicae was not affected by fertilizer treatment, frass quality was influenced by host plant quality as altered by fertilizer applications. Frass contained high concentrations of total nitrogen, NO3-N, and NH4+-N under high fertilizer treatment. In particular, the larvae excreted much more NH4+-N than ingested. The relationship between host plant quality and insect frass quality, as well as the potential implications for decomposition and nutrient dynamics, are discussed.
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Keywords: Ammonium; Brassica rapa L; Maestro brassicae (L.); frass; nitrate; nitrogen metabolism; nutritional ecology; plant–insect interaction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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