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Virus Res. 2009 May;141(2):247-57. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2008.10.021. Epub 2009 Jan 31.

The effect of host structure on the distribution and abundance of the island sugarcane planthopper, Eumetopina flavipes Muir, vector of Ramu stunt disease of sugarcane.

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  • 1School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.


The island sugarcane planthopper, Eumetopina flavipes Muir, is the only known vector for Ramu stunt disease of sugarcane. This study examined the relationship between host plant distribution and abundance, and E. flavipes distribution, abundance and levels of population connectivity in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Torres Strait (TS) and northern peninsula area (NPA) of Australia, as a first step in establishing E. flavipes invasion potential through the TS/NPA. Results show that E. flavipes utilises a wide range of Saccharum host species in PNG and that the occupation rates and abundances differed significantly among host types. For hosts in common, the proportion of plants occupied in PNG was significantly greater than in TS/NPA. This is likely the result of greater overall host density and connectivity in PNG. E. flavipes abundance per plant did not differ significantly between the two regions suggesting a possible plant-specific abundance and/or dispersal threshold independent of location. Whilst E. flavipes presence and persistence was highly variable at some TS/NPA locations, large and stable infestations occurred down the western edge of the TS archipelago. These populations appear to link PNG to the NPA and offer a potential incursion route for Ramu stunt disease. The stability of these populations appears to be associated with the availability and persistence of host material, which in turn is significantly affected by variation in cultivation practices. In the TS/NPA, implementation of pre-emptive management of E. flavipes via cultivation techniques, such as simultaneous tip-pruning, may be an effective means of control for the pest, and would be simpler and preferable to the direct management of Ramu stunt disease should it be detected in the TS/NPA.

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