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J Chem Ecol. 2003 Sep;29(9):1997-2011.

Effects of drought stressed cotton, Gossypium hirsutum L., on beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua (Hübner), oviposition, and larval feeding preferences and growth.

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  • 1Integrated Farming and Natural Resources Research Unit, Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center, USDA-ARS SARC, 2412 East Highway 83, Weslaco, Texas 78596, USA.


The beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua (Hübner), has been anecdotally reported to oviposit more on drought stressed than on nonstressed cotton plants. Using potted cotton plants in cages, this study demonstrated that beet armyworms deposited 3.3, 4.6, and 2.3 times more (P < or = 0.05) eggs on cotton plants that were grown on 1500, 1000, and 750 ml water/wk, respectively, than on cotton plants grown in well watered (4000 ml water/wk) soil. Third instars, however, showed no preference for stressed cotton foliage over nonstressed foliage. Third instar beet armyworms raised on well watered cotton plants were 1.5, 2.3, and 2.6 times heavier than those reared on cotton grown in the 1500, 1000, and 750 ml water/wk plants (P < or = 0.05), respectively. Physiochemical analyses showed that drought stressed leaves had significantly greater accumulations of free amino acids that are essential for insect growth and development. Soluble protein and soluble carbohydrates were also more abundant in stressed leaves compared to nonstressed leaves. Despite the apparent increase in nutritional quality in drought stressed plants, larval survival was reduced, probably because the limiting factor became water. Greater amounts of cotton leaf area were consumed from drought stressed leaves (P < or = 0.05) than from nonstressed leaves, probably because the larvae had to metabolize greater portions of assimilated energy to supplement body water with metabolic water derived from respiration. The association of greater host plant nutritional quality to oviposition preference, and conversely, to reduced survivorship, is discussed.

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