Effects of western corn rootworm larval feeding, drought, and their interaction on maize performance and rootworm development
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Both water deficit and western corn rootworm can affect maize yield and previous anecdotal evidence in the field had suggested that when both plant stress factors were present, the effect on maize was greater than would be expected from the combined effects of the two factors alone. We conducted a series of greenhouse experiments using a single maize hybrid, three infestation levels of the western corn rootworm under well-watered, moderately dry, and very dry soil moisture levels to quantify the effects of western corn rootworm and soil water deficit when found together under carefully controlled conditions. Additional experiments were also conducted to quantify the interaction between western corn rootworm and water deficit for its effect on maize hybrids with and without expressed drought- and rootworm-tolerance under field conditions. Overall, the effect of water deficit on maize growth and yield was much greater than the effect of western corn rootworm and the combined effect on maize was no greater than expected from addition of the individual effects. The drought- and western corn rootworm-tolerant maize hybrids were less water stressed and had more yield under severe drought stress in the field. A greater understanding of the effects of plant stress factors on maize growth will allow better decisions by growers as they attempt to optimize yield.
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