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Host Plant Nutrition and Outbreaks of the Coconut Caterpillar, Opisina arenosella Walker in Sri Lanka

Authors:

M. E. CAMMELL ,

GB
About M. E.
Imperial College, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berks, U.K.
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P. A. C. R. PERERA,

LK
About P. A. C. R.
Coconut Research Institute, Lunuwila, Sri Lanka.
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M. J. WAY,

GB
About M. J.
Imperial College, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berks, U.K.
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M. JEGANATHAN

LK
About M.
Coconut Research Institute, Lunuwila, Sri Lanka.
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Abstract

The coconut caterpillar, Opisina arenosella, causes locally serious outbreaks with severe
defoliation to coconut palms and subsequent loss of yield. However, there appears to be a
natural resistance in the host plant to 0. arenosella attack, for infestations are confined to
mature and senescing fronds and even within a heavily attacked plantation a few palms may
remain unattacked or only slightly damaged. Also previous work had indicated that potassium
deficiency benefited O. arenosella. Therefore experiments were carried out to examine the
possible role in host resistance of major plant nutrients and also of certain amino acids.
Comparisons were made between plantations with a history of frequent outbreaks
('attacked') and those that had never been attacked ('unattacked'). The results showed that
there were no significant differences between mean amounts of foliar potassium, nitrogen,
phosphorus, calcium and magnesium at 'attacked' and 'unattacked' sites. However, these
samples were taken at the end of unusually long dry seasons when differences in potassium
would be expected to be relatively small because uptake is limited from dry soil. Potassium
levels were highest in the youngest fronds which are those not normally attacked whereas
peak amounts of nitrogen occurred in those fronds which are most susceptible to attack. Also
amounts of 'amide' were notably higher at 'unattacked' sites.
It was concluded that further work was required on the relationship between major plant
nutrients and levels of attack by 0. arenosella, particularly in relation to changes in nutrient
concentrations which occur at different times of the year. Thus, palms may be more
susceptible to pest attack during critical periods which need to be defined in order to optimise
control strategies.
How to Cite: CAMMELL, M.E. et al., (2010). Host Plant Nutrition and Outbreaks of the Coconut Caterpillar, Opisina arenosella Walker in Sri Lanka. COCOS. 8, pp.40–50. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/cocos.v8i0.2122
Published on 27 Jul 2010.
Peer Reviewed

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