The cottonwood leaf beetle, Chrysomela scripta F., is the most serious defoliator of young plantation-grown Populus in the eastern United States, yet there is a paucity of data on larval feeding performance across Populus clones used in tree breeding. Field experiments were conducted in 1998 and 1999 to determine the overall feeding performance of larval C. scripta on 8 Populus selections from a pedigree family. Using a randomized complete block design, entire trees were enclosed in mesh cages, and female C. scripta were allowed to oviposit in sleeve cages on each tree. Larval cohorts were culled to 10 upon hatch and allowed to develop to pupation within each sleeve cage. Larval survival, pupal weight, adult emergence, and total mortality were recorded as performance parameters. Significant but inconsistent performance differences were found among clones, suggesting that some clones were less suitable for C. scripta larval development in some insect generations. Larval performance was generally poorer on clones with higher P. trichocarpa parentage. C. scripta performance was significantly poorer in 1999 and showed a decline throughout the 1999 growing season, but it is not clear whether this was caused by conditions of the host plants, weather patterns, or changes made in the source of insects for infestation. Clones with foliar characteristics detrimental to larval C. scripta performance could be used for plantings or in developing C. scripta-resistant hybrid Populus selections for short-rotation woody crop systems.
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