Controlling western corn rootworm larvae with entomopathogenic nematodes: effect of application techniques on plant-scale efficacy.
The three larval instars of western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte, Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) feed on the roots of maize, Zea mays (L.). The effects of six application techniques on the plant-scale efficacy of the entomopathogenic nematode species, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora Poinar (Rhabditida: Heterorhabditidae), in controlling D. v. virgifera populations were assessed in seven field plot experiments in southern Hungary between 2004 and 2007. Approximately 230 000 nematodes were applied per row metre using four different stream spray techniques; or, alternatively 400 000 nematodes per square metre using two different flat spray techniques. Nematode efficacy was assessed by comparing the number of emerging adult D. v. virgifera, and root damage between treatments and untreated controls. All tested nematode application techniques reduced D. v. virgifera density by at least 50% (on average across fields and years). The highest reduction in D. v. virgifera density was 68% and occurred when nematodes were applied into the soil together with maize sowing using a fluid solid stream. Rainfall, the day before application likely increased the control efficacy of H. bacteriophora. Using the 0.00-3.00 node injury damage rating scale, we estimated that potential root damage was prevented by 25-79% when H. bacteriophora was applied. Although, H. bacteriophora can effectively be applied with all of the techniques tested, for optimum performance and minimum costs, it is suggested that the nematodes be applied as follows: (i) as a stream requiring 8-10 times less volume of water than flat sprays, or as a granule requiring no water, and (ii) into the soil when sowing maize, requiring less water than soil surface sprays and avoiding the destruction of nematodes by UV radiation and additional machinery use.