We evaluated 27 prairie grass species thought to be among those dominant 200 yr ago in the northern midwest as larval hosts of the northern corn rootworm, Diabrotica barberi Smith and Lawrence. Maize (Zea mays L.), spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) were included as controls for a total of 30 species. Twenty pots of each species were planted in a randomized complete block design. Each pot was infested 5 wk later with 20 neonate northern corn rootworm larvae. Two pots within each species and block were assigned an extraction date of 7 or 14 d after infestation. The remaining two pots from each block were used to monitor adult emergence. The percentage of larvae recovered, change in larval head capsule width, and change in average dry weights varied significantly among the grass species. The highest percentage of larvae was recovered from slender wheatgrass, Elymus trachycaulus (Link), and this was significantly greater than the percentage recovered from all other species including maize for the 14-d sample date. Several additional species were also relatively good hosts, in that the percentage of larvae recovered from these species was not significantly different from maize. The average dry weight of larvae recovered was significantly greater for larvae recovered from maize than for larvae recovered from all other species except slender wheatgrass, when the two samples dates were combined. Overall, adults were produced from only 6 of the 28 species evaluated, and no analysis was performed because of the low numbers. The results of this study are discussed in relation to the potential of alternate hosts of northern corn rootworm to serve as a bridge to survival on transgenic maize.
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