The influence of plant nutrition on arthropod pests has often been studied by comparing plants provided suboptimal nutrients with those provided sufficient or luxurious nutrients, but such results have limited applicability to commercially produced crops because nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are almost never limiting in greenhouse production. We conducted a series of experiments with ivy geranium, Pelargonium peltatum (L.) L’Hér. ex Aiton ‘Amethyst 96′ to determine the response of twospotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae Koch (Acarina: Tetranychidae), to six combinations of N (8 or 24 mM) and P (0.32, 0.64, or 1.28 mM) that reflected commercial production practices. All six combinations resulted in saleable plants when plants were free of spider mites, but tissue N and P concentrations among fertilizer combinations were different. On mite-infested plants, no difference in mite numbers or plant damage was found in response to N fertilization rates. Phosphorus had no effect on mite population level until week 8, at which time plants fertilized with 0.64 mM P had slightly more mites than plants fertilized with 0.32 mM. However, overall quality and dry weight of plants fertilized by 0.32 mM P was lower than that of 0.64 and 1.28 mM, which suggests that ivy geranium plants fertilized with the higher P rates may better compensate for mite feeding damage. Positive correlations were found between within-plant distribution of mites and the corresponding tissue N and P concentrations in three foliage strata, suggesting that tissue nutrient content may influence mite selection of feeding sites.
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Vol. 100 • No. 6