Shading Induced Variability in Azalea Mediates its Suitability as a Host for the Azalea Lace Bug

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

This study quantified how different shading levels alter the foliar nutrient, C:N ratio, chlorophyll content and key leaf characters in azalea `Delaware Valley White' Rhododendron mucronatum (Blume) (Ericales: Ericaceae), which influenced, in turn, feeding, oviposition, survival and development of the azalea lace bug, Stephanitis pyrioides (Scott) (Heteroptera: Tingidae). The mean contents of N, Ca, Fe, and Zn increased linearly with increases in the shading level, whereas P, K, B, Mn, and the C:N ratio of leaves were significantly decreased. Although injured leaves contained significantly less chlorophyll than uninjured leaves, the mean relative chlorophyll content of leaves increased linearly with the level of shading. Mean leaf area and moisture content of leaves increased linearly with increased degree of shading, while the mean trichome density decreased. The mean number of oviposited eggs and the percent of nymphs reaching adulthood increased linearly with the degree of shading. Azalea shoots suffered increased feeding injury as the season progressed, yet unshaded plants suffered more feeding injury than shaded plants. While the mean number of eggs laid, and the mean number of reared adults, were significantly and positively correlated with the mean leaf N, the mean feeding injury was negatively correlated with leaf N. Although these dependent variables were not correlated with K nor Ca, the mean number of eggs laid, and the mean number of reared adults were negatively correlated with the mean leaf P and with the mean C:N ratio. Mean feeding injury was positively correlated with leaf P and with the C:N ratio, but negatively correlated with N. This study shows that shaded plants are of better quality as hosts and that these plants can tolerate infestations by the lace bug.

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