Nutrient stress, host plant quality and herbivore performance of a leaf-mining fly on grass

Luc De Bruyn, J Scheirs, R Verhagen

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    Environmental stresses affect plant growth and performance in nature. Host plant quality in turn affects herbivore performance and population dynamics. In view of these interactions, two major hypotheses were formulated. The plant stress hypothesis proposes that physiologically stressed plants become more susceptible to herbivores. The plant vigour hypothesis proposes that plants that grow vigorously are favourable to herbivores. Here we test the plant stress/plant vigour hypotheses for a leaf miner, Agromyza nigripes (Diptera; Agromyzidae), on the grass Holcus lanatus. We assessed larval performance (survival, developmental time, pupal mass) on grasses growing under different levels of nutrients (Hoagland solution) and drought stress, under controlled field and greenhouse conditions. Plant vigour and nutrient content were high on soils with an intermediate nutrient concentration and lower under drought stress and soil nutrient shortage and overdose. Larval performance was also highest on wet soils with intermediate nutrient supply. The results of the mining flies support the plant vigour hypothesis (density, survival and development better on vigorous plants). Herbivore performance is higher on leaves with a higher protein content. Keywords
    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)594-599
    Number of pages6
    Publication statusPublished - 2002

    Thematic list

    • Insects
    • Flora

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B280-animal-ecology

    Taxonomic list

    • true flies (2-winged flies) (Diptera)


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