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Improving biological control of stalk borers in sugarcane by applying silicon as a soil amendment

Amin Nikpay*

Department of Plant Protection, Sugarcane and By-Products Development Company, Salman-Farsi Unit, Ahwaz, 61348-14543, Iran

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Received: June 1, 2016
Accepted: November 7, 2016

Abstract: The sugarcane stalk borers, Sesamia spp. (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) are the most destructive sugarcane insect pests in Iran. The efficiency of Telenomus busseolae Gahan (Hymenoptera: Scelionidae) used alone or in combination with silicon fertilization was investigated for controlling the sugarcane stalk borers under field conditions. The treatments were: a combination of silicon plus multiple releases of 2,500 T. busseolae, and multiple releases of 5,000, 2,500 and 1,250 T. busseolae alone. Plots receiving no soil amendment or parasites were included as the controls. Three weeks after the first application of each treatment, 100 shoots were selected randomly from each plot and the percentage of dead heart was determined. Then, three months after the first application of parasites, the percentage of stalks damaged, the percentage of internodes bored, and the level of parasitism were determined. Finally, at harvest the percentage of stalks damaged, the percentage of internodes bored, and sugarcane quality characteristics were determined. Results indicated that the efficiency of parasitism increased when combined with an application of silicon fertilizer. The release of 2,500 T. busseolae followed by an application of silicon fertilizer decreased dead hearts to 4%, while 12% dead hearts was observed in the control plots. For the combination treatment, the percentages of stalk damage were 1.5% and 17.2%, at 3 weeks and 3 months after time release, respectively. However, the percentages of stalk damage were 35.2% and 51% when no treatment was applied. Cane quality was significantly higher with the application of silicon fertilizer plus the release of 2,500 T. busseolae, followed by releasing 5,000 Hymenoptera. The level of parasitism was also greater when parasites were released in combination with an application of silicon. We conclude that biological control by egg parasitoids can be enhanced with concurrent applications of silicon fertilizer as a soil amendment and thereby creating a more robust, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program of stalk borers in Iranian sugarcane fields.

Key words: Khuzestan, Sesamia, silicon, stalk borers, sugarcane, Telenomus busseolae

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