The additive effect of a stem galling moth and a competitive plant on parthenium weed under CO2 enrichment.
Parthenium weed (Parthenium hysterophorus) is a highly invasive plant that has invaded many parts of world including Australia. The present study reports on the effects of rising [CO2] on the performance of one of its biological control agents, stem-galling moth (Epiblema strenuana) when combined with a competitive plant, buffel grass (Cenchrus cilliaris). The study was carried out under controlled environment facilities during 2010-11. P. hysterophorus when grown under elevated [CO2] of 550 µmol mol-1, produced a greater biomass (27%), attained greater stature (31%), produced more branches (45%) and seeds plant-1 (20%), than those grown at ambient [CO2] of 380 µmol mol-1. Buffel grass reduced the biomass and seed production of P. hysterophorus plants by 33% and 22% under ambient [CO2] and by 19% and 17% under elevated [CO2], respectively. The combined effect of buffel grass and E. strenuana reduced dry biomass and seed production by 42% and 72% under ambient [CO2] and 29% and 37% elevated [CO2], respectively. Although the suppressive effect was different between ambient and elevated [CO2], the effect is likely to be retained. Stem gall formation by E. strenuana significantly enhanced the lateral branch production in plants grown under both [CO2]. Epiblema strenuana did not reduce the seed production of P. hysterophorus under the elevated [CO2] nevertheless, our earlier study had confirmed that many of the seeds produced under such conditions are not filled. This study has highlighted that the additive suppressive effect of E. strenuana and buffel grass on P. hysterophorus growth would be retained under future atmospheric CO2 enrichment.