This research details the influence of fertility on plant growth, photosynthesis and ethylene evolution of chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflora Tzvelev var. Charm) inoculated with western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande). We tested the hypothesis that moderate levels of nitrogen would better control western flower thrips on chrysanthemum. While thrips are known to reduce plant quality, there have been few comprehensive studies on plant response to thrips population dynamics—analyzing changes in plant growth and development, plant gas exchange and ethylene evolution. Plants were exposed to four fertility levels that consisted of 0%, 10%, 20% and 100% (375 ppm N) of recommended nitrogen levels. Thrips abundance was greatest at high fertility. Thrips depressed plant vegetative and reproductive growth and altered carbohydrate partitioning. Thrips-inoculated (TI) plants also had reduced leaf area and lower leaf mass than thrips-free (NonTI) plants, but did not differ in specific leaf area [(SLA) leaf area (cm2)/leaf DM (g)]. However, high fertility plants had greater biomass and higher SLA, i.e., thinner leaves than low fertility treatments. Thrips reduced photosynthesis (Pn) and stomatal conductance (gs) in young, mature and older basal leaves, with gs showing greater sensitivity than Pn. Ethylene and chlorophyll levels in thrips damaged leaves did not differ from Non-TI plants.
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