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Infestation Rates and Tiller Morphology Effects by the Switchgrass Moth on Six Cultivars of Switchgrass

Calles Torrez, Veronica, Johnson, Paul J., Boe, Arvid
BioEnergy research 2013 v.6 no.2 pp. 808-812
Coleophoridae, Panicum virgatum, biomass production, cultivars, economic valuation, energy crops, feeding preferences, feeds, insect larvae, internodes, leaves, moths, rhizomes, temporal variation, tillers, Kentucky
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a potential biomass crop for native species-based biofuel systems in North America. A recently identified pest of switchgrass, the switchgrass moth, Blastobasis repartella (Dietz) (Lepidoptera: Coleophoridae), feeds in the basal above-ground internodes and below-ground in the proaxis and rhizomes, causing premature tiller and rhizome loss. Our goal was to determine genetic and temporal variation among six upland cultivars for frequency of tiller infestation by larvae of the switchgrass moth in mature stands in the northern Great Plains and if variation in biomass production was associated with variation in frequency of infestation. Data were collected in 2011 and 2012 for tiller density, biomass, frequency of infestation, number of leaves per healthy and infested tiller, and weights of healthy and infested tillers. Differences were found among cultivars for tiller density, biomass yield, and numbers of leaves per healthy and infested tillers. ‘Summer’, ‘Sunburst’, ‘Pathfinder’, and ‘Cave-In-Rock’ were the highest yielding cultivars. Mean frequency of infestation was different between 2011 (6.7 %) and 2012 (9.6 %). Infested tillers had one less collared leaf than healthy tillers. The weights of healthy tillers were ca. 3× those of infested tillers in both years, suggesting an impact on biomass accumulation and economic value. Levels of infestation were similar for all six cultivars, indicating no feeding preference by the switchgrass moth larva among genetically diverse cultivars of switchgrass. Regression of biomass yield on frequency of infestation showed negative linear relationships for ‘Carthage’ and ‘Kentucky 1625’.