Mealybugs are major insect pests of greenhouses, interiorscapes, and conservatories because they feed on a wide-range of horticultural crops. Furthermore, mealybugs are difficult to regulate with insecticides due to the presence of a nearly impervious protective waxy covering, which means that alternative management strategies are required. As such, this study, involving two replicated experiments, was designed to determine the value of applying silicon-based fertilizers, as potassium silicate, to coleus, Solenstemon scutellanoides (L.) Codd, plants as a way to prevent outbreaks of the citrus mealybug, Planococcus citri (Risso) (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). The first experiment evaluated the effects of different application methods (foliar and drench), at 50 ppm silicon, using the commercially-available product, ProTek 0-0-3 The Silicon Solution. The second experiment entailed applying the silicon-based fertilizer as a drench to the growing medium at different rates (0, 100, 400, 800, and 1,600 ppm silicon). We determined the effects of the silicon-based fertilizer treatments on citrus mealybug life history parameters including number of eggs laid by the adult female, body size, and developmental time from first instar to ovipositing adult female. Furthermore, we used a plant alkaline fusion technique to assess the concentration (milligrams per kilogram or ppm) of silicon in the coleus plant tissues at variable time intervals (days). In general, this technique involved dry-ashing plant tissue in a muffle furnace, followed by alkaline fusion and then colormetric analysis. The silicon-based fertilizer application treatments, in both experiments, did not negatively affect any of the citrus mealybug life history parameters measured. In the first experiment, citrus mealybug female egg load ranged from 199.5 (drench application) to 219.4 (combination spray and drench application), and developmental time (days) from first instar crawler to ovipositing female ranged from 34.2 (combination spray and drench application) to 35.7 (drench application). For the second experiment, citrus mealybug female egg load ranged from 223.1 (1,600 ppm silicon) to 249.2 (800 ppm silicon). Developmental time from first-instar crawler to ovipositing female ranged from 35.0 (400 ppm silicon) to 36.6 (800 ppm silicon). Our results indicate that coleus is a silicon “rejector,” and as such, applications of silicon-based fertilizers may not benefit dicot plants such as coleus as much as monocot plants in regards to avoiding insect pest outbreaks because dicots tend not to accumulate sufficient quantities of silicon.
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Vol. 102 • No. 6