The sunflower beetle, Zygogramma exclamationis (F.), is the major defoliating pest of sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). Planting date was evaluated as a potential management tool in a variety of production regions throughout North Dakota from 1997 to 1999, for its impact on sunflower beetle population density of both adults and larvae, defoliation caused by both feeding stages, seed yield, oil content, and larval parasitism in cultivated sunflower. Results from this 3-yr study revealed that sunflower beetle adult and larval populations decreased as planting date was delayed. Delayed planting also reduced defoliation from adult and larval feeding, which is consistent with the lower numbers of the beetles present in the later seeded plots. Even a planting delay of only 1 wk was sufficient to significantly reduce feeding damage to the sunflower plant. Yield reduction caused by leaf destruction of the sunflower beetle adults and larvae was clearly evident in the first year of the study. The other component of sunflower yield, oil content, did not appear to be influenced by beetle feeding. The tachinid parasitoid, Myiopharus macellus (Rheinhard), appeared to be a significant mortality factor of sunflower beetle larvae at most locations regardless of the dates of planting, and was able to attack and parasitize the beetle at various larval densities. The results of this investigation showed the potential of delayed planting date as an effective integrated pest management tactic to reduce sunflower beetle adults, larvae, and their resulting defoliation. In addition, altering planting dates was compatible with biological control of the beetle, because delaying the planting date did not reduce the effectiveness of the parasitic fly, M. macellus, which attacks the sunflower beetle larvae.
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Vol. 96 • No. 3