It has been claimed that plant architecture can alter aphid reproductive rates, but the mechanism driving this effect has not been identified. We studied interactions between plant architecture, aphid density, environmental conditions, and nutrient availability on the reproduction of pea aphids [Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris)] using four near-isogenic peas (Pisum sativum L.) that differ in morphology. Manipulations of aphid density (1, 5, and 10 adults per plant) allowed us to examine any effects of plant morphology on crowding and consequently reproduction. Pea morphology per se did not alter pea aphid crowding, as measured by mean nearest neighbor distance, and there was no effect on reproduction. In addition, reproduction increased with increasing adult density, indicating positive density dependence. In a separate experiment, peas were fertilized to determine whether differences between nutrient availability of the four different morphologies might drive any observed differences in aphid reproduction. Although plant nitrogen content was altered by fertilization treatments, this did not have an impact on aphid reproduction. Greenhouse experiments, however, suggested that pea morphology can interact with environmental conditions to reduce aphid reproduction under some conditions. We conclude that plant morphology only influences aphid reproduction when environmental conditions are less than optimal.
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