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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Plant sex effects on insect herbivores and biological control in a Short Rotation Coppice willow

Moritz, Kim K.; Bjorkman, Christer; Parachnowitsch, Amy L.; Stenberg, Johan A.


In the wild, plant sex can affect plant-herbivore interactions and higher trophic levels, including natural enemies of the herbivores. However, the possibility of manipulating plant sex to improve biological control and reduce herbivory in domesticated dioecious crops remains unexplored. The dioecious bioenergy crop, Salix viminalis, is often planted in monoclonal, and thus monosexual, fields. We investigated whether using plant clones of either sex, or mixing plants of both sexes, reduced the performance and abundance of the herbivorous pest insect Phratora vulgatissima and its main natural enemy, Anthocoris nemorum, and whether predation was affected. The herbivore laid more eggs, and the predator survived longer, on female plants in the lab. However, these effects did not translate into differences in predation rates in laboratory experiments or differential insect abundances on plants of either sex or plantation sex composition in the field. Plant genotype did have a significant effect on insect abundances, but this was due to plant traits other than sex. The results indicate that manipulating plant sex will not lead to improved biological control or reduced insect herbivory in S. viminalis energy forestry, but suggest that a focus on plant genotypic differences offers promise for improving management practices.


Integrated Pest Management; Dioecy; Biocontrol; Anthocoris nemorum; Phratora vulgatissima; Salix viminalis

Published in

Biological Control
2017, volume: 115, pages: 30-36

Authors' information

Karlsson Moritz, Kim (Karlsson Moritz, Kim)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Parachnowitsch, Amy L.
Uppsala University
Stenberg, Johan A. (Stenberg, Johan A)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

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