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Companion planting – do aromatic plants disrupt host-plant finding by the cabbage root fly and the onion fly more effectively than non-aromatic plants?

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Brassica and Allium host-plants were each surrounded by four non-host plants to determine how background plants affected host-plant finding by the cabbage root fly (Delia radicum L.) and the onion fly [Delia antiqua (Meig.)] (Diptera: Anthomyiidae), respectively. The 24 non-host plants tested in field-cage experiments included garden ‘bedding’ plants, weeds, aromatic plants, companion plants, and one vegetable plant. Of the 20 non-host plants that disrupted host-plant finding by the cabbage root fly, fewest eggs (18% of check total) were laid on host plants surrounded by the weed Chenopodium album L., and most (64% of check total) on those surrounded by the weed Fumaria officinalis L. Of the 15 plants that disrupted host-plant finding in the preliminary tests involving the onion fly, the most disruptive (8% of check total) was a green-leaved variant of the bedding plant Pelargonium × hortorum L.H. Bail and the least disruptive (57% of check total) was the aromatic plant Mentha piperita × citrata (Ehrh.) Briq. Plant cultivars of Dahlia variabilis (Willd.) Desf. and Pelargonium×hortorum, selected for their reddish foliage, were less disruptive than comparable cultivars with green foliage. The only surrounding plants that did not disrupt oviposition by the cabbage root fly were the low-growing scrambling plant Sallopia convolvulus L., the grey-foliage plant Cineraria maritima L., and two plants, Lobularia maritima (L.) Desv. and Lobelia erinus L. which, from their profuse covering of small flowers, appeared to be white and blue, respectively. The leaf on which the fly landed had a considerable effect on subsequent behaviour. Flies that landed on a host plant searched the leaf surface in an excited manner, whereas those that landed on a non-host plant remained more or less motionless. Before taking off again, the flies stayed 2–5 times as long on the leaf of a non-host plant as on the leaf of a host plant. Host-plant finding was affected by the size (weight, leaf area, height) of the surrounding non-host plants. ‘Companion plants’ and aromatic plants were no more disruptive to either species of fly than the other plants tested. Disruption by all plants resulted from their green leaves, and not from their odours and/or tastes.
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Keywords: Anthomyiidae; Delia antiqua; Delia radicum; Diptera; aromatic plants; cabbage maggot; companion planting; inappropriate landing’ theory; onion maggot; ‘Appropriate

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Horticulture Research International, Wellesbourne, Warwick, CV35 9EF, UK

Publication date: 01 December 2003

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