Irrigation effects on European corn borer ‐ maize water relations

P. C. Ellsworth, J. R. Bradley, G. G. Kennedy, R. P. Patterson, R. E. Stinner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This study examined the impact of irrigation water on certain aspects of an insect‐plant relationship in the field including the assessment of plant‐mediated water effects on an herbivore's development, survival, and behavior, and plant damage parameters and host tissue water status. Maize (Zea mays L.) plants were arranged in a randomized complete block design in the field over two years in North Carolina (NC). Four blocks were subjected to three different irrigation treatments initiated ca. one week before anthesis: optimal, intermediate, deficit water supply. Each plant was infested with one (1986) or two (1987) black head stage, E‐race European corn borer [Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübn.)] (ECB) egg masses at tasselling. ECB development, tunnelling site, and survival as well as plant tissue water status (tissue % water contents [θ] & leaf water potentials [Ψ]) were recorded through July. The irrigation effect on ECB parameters was slight and variable. Internal stalk temperatures of optimal plants were consistently cooler than their deficit counterparts (1 day‐degree/day). With degree‐days included as an explanatory variable in the analyses, there were no significant irrigation effects on the ECB parameters, except for total proportion of ECB's bored into maize plant parts. More ECB's bored into drier plants than in optimal plants; however, this trend was not significant in 1987. Plant water indices showed that though responded to irrigation, there were only minor changes in tissue θ, particularly in view of the larger diurnal tissue changes observed and the relatively high, sustained stalk θ levels seen over all treatments. Examination of ECB pupal θ confirmed that dietary water changes were minor or non‐limiting to the insects' developmental physiology, because pupal θ was not sensitive to the irrigation treatments. Though water supply changes have drastic developmental and agronomic consequences for the maize plant, little or no changes were seen in the ECB feeding environment. Furthermore, a plant damage model was developed whereby the total % of ECB's tunnelled into maize was related to the mean larval age. The implications of this model on the understanding of ECB tunnelling behavior, damage potential, and pest management is noted. 1992 The Netherlands Entomological Society

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1992


  • European corn borer
  • Ostrinia nubilalis
  • development
  • drought
  • irrigation
  • maize
  • microenvironment
  • models
  • stress
  • water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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