Feeding by lesser cornstalk borer, Elasmopalpus lignosellus (Zeller) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), larvae on sugarcane (a complex hybrid of Saccharum spp.) causes leaf damage, dead hearts, and dead plants that can result in stand and yield loss. A 2-yr greenhouse experiment was conducted to examine sugarcane variety and plant age-specific feeding responses to E. lignosellus. Plants growing from single-eye setts of three varieties were exposed to a single generation of E. lignosellus larvae beginning at the three-, five-, and seven-leaf stages. Results indicated that the physical damage and resulting yield loss of plants attacked by E. lignosellus larvae were dependent on the variety and leaf stage at which they were infested. Significantly more plant damage was observed in all three varieties when infested at the three- than at the seven-leaf stage. Larvae caused significantly more plant damage and reduced yield in CP 89-2143 than in CP 78-1628. Tiller production increased in CP78-1628 and CP 88-1762 when infested at the three-leaf stage, whereas tiller production, biomass and sugar yield decreased in CP 89-2143 when infested at all leaf stages, compared with the untreated control. There was no reduction in yield when CP 78-1628 was infested at the three- or five-leaf stages. Biomass was reduced in CP 88-1762 when plants were infested at any of the leaf stages, but sugar yield was reduced only when infested at the seven-leaf stage. These results indicate that compensation in response to E. lignosellus damage was variety dependent and declined with the delay in infestation time.
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Vol. 104 • No. 2