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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fort Lauderdale, Florida » Invasive Plant Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #363536

Research Project: Identification, Evaluation, and Implementation of Biological Control Agents for Invasive Weeds of Southeastern Ecosystems

Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory

Title: A novel method for quantifying insect damage to plant storage organs

item Dray, F Allen
item Goldstein, Scott

Submitted to: Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/7/2019
Publication Date: 12/6/2019
Citation: Dray Jr, F.A., Goldstein, S. 2019. A novel method for quantifying insect damage to plant storage organs. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. 168(1):113-117.

Interpretive Summary: Belowground herbivory is an important part of agricultural and natural ecosystems, yet methods for measuring such feeding have largely been absent. Although there are some qualitative methods used [e.g., damage rating scales ranging from 0 (no damage) to 5 (heavily damaged)], these are inadequate when actual quantitative measures (e.g., mg of tissue consumed) are needed. As part of our research on the invasive Asian vine Dioscorea bulbifera (air potato) we needed to quantitatively compare amounts of above- and belowground plant tissues consumed by potential biological controls. This paper describes a volumetric method for measuring such feeding and represents, to our knowledge, the first published method for quantifying belowground herbivory.

Technical Abstract: 1) Assessing insect damage to belowground plant structures is important for understanding the overall impacts of herbivores in agricultural and biological control systems, and in plant communities in general. 2) Techniques for measuring such damage to date have largely been qualitative and indirect. 3) Assessing the host range of a potential biological control agent, the Asian beetle Lilioceris egena, which feeds in and oviposits on the aerial tubers (bulbils) of its host, Dioscorea bulbifera, required a means for quantifying internal damage to the storage organs of test plants. 4) The novel volumetric injection method developed to facilitate measuring the small amounts of damage produced by individual neonate L. egena provides a solution to the methodological deficiency that has previously limited studies of belowground herbivory.