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Response of Maize Hybrids With and Without Rootworm- and Drought-Tolerance to Rootworm Infestation Under Well-Watered and Drought Conditions

M A B Mahmoud, R E Sharp, M J Oliver, D L Finke, M Bohn, M R Ellersieck, B E Hibbard
Journal of economic entomology 2018 v.111 no.1 pp. 193-208
Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, Zea mays, corn, crop yield, drought, drought tolerance, field experimentation, hybrids, leaf water potential, plant stress, soil water, stomatal conductance, water content
Anecdotal data in the past have suggested that the effect of the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), on maize yield is greater under drought and the effect of drought is greater under rootworm infestations, but no field experiments have controlled both moisture and rootworm levels. Field studies were conducted in 2012, 2013, and 2014 with treatments in a factorial arrangement of western corn rootworm infestation levels, and maize hybrids (with and without tolerance to drought and rootworm feeding). The experiment was repeated under well-watered and drought conditions in adjacent plots. Leaf water potential and stomatal conductance data suggested significant plant stress was achieved in the drought plots toward the end of the season each year and maize hybrids only played a minor role. In particular, in 2012 and 2013 yield was dramatically lower for the drought experiment than for the well-watered experiment. However, the impacts of rootworm infestation level and maize hybrids on water potential, stomatal conductance, and yield were variable across years and between experiments. In fact, the only year that the main effect of rootworm infestation levels significantly impacted yield was in 2014, when an extremely high infestation level was added and this was only for the well-watered portion of the experiment. Overall, rootworm infestation level played a relatively minor role in maize productivity and it did not appear that soil moisture level influenced that to a large degree.