Chinch bug, Blissus leucopterus leucopterus (Say) (Heteroptera: Blissidae), is one of the most important insect pests on forage pearl millet, Pennisetum glaucum L. R. Br., production in the southeastern United States. Twenty-nine forage pearl millet genotypes were assessed for chinch bug resistance by using stunt and necrosis ratings in combination with quantitative measurements of chlorophyll content and leaf photosynthetic rate. Plant stunt and leaf sheath necrosis ratings, and chlorophyll content in flag leaves differed among the 29 genotypes. Photosynthetic rate differed both among the noninfested control and among the chinch bug-infested plants. The chinch bug-infested plants had lower photosynthetic rate than the noninfested control plants. Inbreds with resistance superior to that of Tift 23DB were identified for hybrid development. When the 29 pearl millet genotypes were assessed by the six parameters by using cluster analysis, genotypes 07F-1226, 07F-1229, 07F-1231, 07F-1235, 07F-1238, 07F-1239, and 07F-1240 were the most resistant, whereas the genotypes 07F-1220, 07F-1221, 07F-1225, 07F-1227, 07F-1232, 07F-1246, and Tift 23DB were the most susceptible to chinch bug feeding. The rest of the genotypes expressed intermediate responses to the six parameters. To differentiate the physiological impact of chinch bug feeding on light and dark reactions of plant photosynthesis, photosynthesis capacity was assessed using light and CO2 (A/Ci) response curves on noninfested and chinch bug-infested plants of genotypes 07F-1246, 07F-1223, and 07F-1245, which expressed low, intermediate, and high chlorophyll content, respectively. Based on the A/Ci curves, photosynthesis capacity of injured leaves was suppressed in 07F-1223 and 07F-1246, whereas the chinch bug-injured 07F-1245 leaves showed an increase of photosynthetic rate compared with the noninfested plants. In contrast, light response curves were suppressed in the chinch bug-injured plants compared with the noninfested plants of all three genotypes, irrespective of their variations in insect injury ratings. This research demonstrated that visual stunt and necrosis rating methods in combination with chlorophyll and photosynthesis measurements could be used in screening forage pearl millet for chinch bug resistance and deciphering the underlying resistance mechanisms.
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Vol. 102 • No. 5