Seedlings of three elm species with variable susceptibility to the elm leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta luteola Müller) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) were subjected to three water stress treatments (no stress, low stress, and high stress) in a greenhouse experiment. The species tested were Ulmus pumila L. (Siberian elm = highly susceptible), U. parvifolia Jacq. (Chinese elm = resistant), and U. americana L. (American elm = intermediate). The seedlings were analyzed for changes in the levels of selected host traits (trichome density, foliar concentration of nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P], potassium [K], calcium [Ca], magnesium [Mg], iron [Fe], and manganese [Mn]), some of which had previously been implicated in resistance to the elm leaf beetle. Density of leaf abaxial surface trichomes (simple, bulbous, and total trichomes) and foliar Fe and Mg concentrations increased significantly in the highly susceptible Siberian elms under water stress. In contrast, stress reduced trichome density in the moderately susceptible American elms, but it had no effect on levels of foliar mineral nutrients. The stress treatments had no influence on host traits in the resistant Chinese elms. The results suggest that environmental stress can alter plant traits that are likely involved in determining resistance of elms to the elm leaf beetle.
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