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Assessing the relationship between pest density and plant damage: a case study with the belowground herbivore Delia radicum (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) on broccoli

Mesmin, Xavier, Vincent, Marie, Tricault, Yann, Estorgues, Vianney, Daniel, Loïc, Cortesero, Anne-Marie, Faloya, Vincent, Le Ralec, Anne
Applied entomology and zoology 2019 v.54 no.2 pp. 155-165
Brassica oleracea var. italica, Delia radicum, alternative crops, broccoli, cages, case studies, decision support systems, growth traits, head, herbivores, models, pests, pitfall traps, plant damage, plant protection, population dynamics, predators
For many crops, we have poor knowledge about the relationship between pest density and damage. However, investigating pest harmfulness is particularly relevant currently in the search for alternative crop protection strategies that are unlikely to totally suppress pest populations. Here, we assessed the harmfulness of Delia radicum (L.) (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) on broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica Plenck). We worked inside insect-proof cages set up in the field with additional pitfall traps to remove ground-dwelling predators. Plants were manually infested with 10 levels of pest density ranging 0–100 individuals per plant, following a natural infestation pattern. Surprisingly, no plants died but almost 100% of the pests introduced died over the course of the experiment. However, all broccoli development and growth traits were negatively correlated with pest density and broccoli head mass at harvest decreased linearly with pest density. The observation over time of development and growth traits showed evidence of plant compensation, suggesting that the head mass of individual plants may have reached similar values if allowed to fully mature. The relationship between pest density and damage, together with forecast models of pest population dynamics could be used to develop decision support tools assessing the relevance of preventative treatments.