Entomopathogenic nematodes, root weevil larvae, and dynamic interactions among soil texture, plant growth, herbivory, and predation.

Research paper by Fahiem E FE El-Borai, Robin J RJ Stuart, Raquel R Campos-Herrera, Ekta E Pathak, Larry W LW Duncan

Indexed on: 08 Nov '11Published on: 08 Nov '11Published in: Journal of Invertebrate Pathology


Greenhouse experiments were conducted to assess the influence of soil texture on the persistence, efficacy and plant protection ability of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) applied to control larvae of the Diaprepes root weevil (DRW), Diaprepes abbreviatus, infesting potted citrus seedlings. Seedlings were grown in pots containing either coarse sand, fine sand, or sandy loam. Three DRW larvae were added to each of 80 pots of each soil type. 24 h later, 20 pots of each soil type that had received weevil larvae were inoculated with EPN infective juveniles (IJs) of one of the following species: Steinernema diaprepesi, Steinernema riobrave and Heterorhabditis indica. Pots of each soil without EPNs were established as controls with DRW and controls without DRWs. Subsequently, pots with larvae received three additional larvae monthly, and the experiment continued for 9 months. Plant root and top weights at the end of the experiment were affected by both soil (P≤0.0001) and nematodes (P≤0.0001), and nematode species protected plants differently in different soils (interaction P≤0.0001). Soil porosity was inversely related to plant damage by DRW, whether or not EPNs were present; and porosity was directly related to the level of plant protection by EPNs. Mortality of caged sentinel weevil larvae placed in pots near the end of the experiment was highest in pots treated with S. diaprepesi. In a second, similar experiment that included an additional undescribed steinernematid of the Steinernema glaseri-group, soil type affected root damage by DRW and root protection by EPNs in the same manner as in the first experiment. Final numbers of S. diaprepesi and Steinernema sp. as measured by real-time PCR were much greater than those of S. riobrave or H. indica in all soils. Across all treatments, the number of weevil larvae in soil at the end the experiment was inversely related to soil porosity. In all soils, fewer weevil larvae survived in soil treated with S. diaprepesi or Steinernema sp. than in controls with DRW or treatments with S. riobrave or H. indica. The results of these experiments support the hypothesis that EPNs provide greater protection of seedlings against DRW larvae in coarse textured soil than in finer textured soil. However, less vigorous growth of the control without DRW seedlings in the two finer textured soils suggests that unidentified factors that stressed seedlings in those soils also impaired the ability of seedlings to tolerate weevil herbivory.