Southern chinch bug, Blissus insularis Barber (Hemiptera: Blissidae), is the most serious insect pest of St. Augustinegrass Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walter) Kuntze, a common lawngrass grown in southeastern U.S. states. Host plant resistance to southern chinch bug has been identified in the polyploid St. Augustinegrass‘FX-10′ and the diploid ‘Captiva’. The objective of this research was to identify possible physical mechanism(s) explaining chinch bug resistance in these cultivars. We studied the distribution of chinch bug salivary sheaths in the preferred tissue for feeding (the axillary shoot) of the two resistant cultivars and two susceptible cultivars, paired for ploidy (‘Floratam’, polyploid, and Palmetto, diploid). We also investigated the potential role of axillary shoot lignification and anatomy in chinch bug resistance. Salivary sheaths were more abundant on the outermost leaf sheath of axillary shoots of resistant cultivars compared with susceptible cultivars. In contrast, fewer salivary sheaths reached the innermost meristematic tissue in the axillary shoots of resistant St. Augustinegrass cultivars than in the two susceptible cultivars. The polyploid cultivars FX-10 and Floratam had higher total lignin in axillary shoots compared with the diploid cultivars Captiva and Palmetto. However, total lignin content was not correlated with resistance to southern chinch bug. Light microscopic studies found no differences in epidermal layer thickness among resistant and susceptible St. Augustinegrass cultivars. However, transmission electron microscopic studies revealed that the cell walls of the sclerenchyma cells around the vascular bundle of southern chinch bug-resistant FX-10 and Captiva were significantly thicker than the cell walls in susceptible Floratam and Palmetto. Our research suggests that the thick-walled sclerenchyma cells around the vascular bundle play a role in southern chinch bug resistance in St. Augustinegrass, possibly by reducing stylet penetration to the vascular tissue.
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