A study was carried out in 10 counties of North Carolina from 2004 to 2006 to determine the effect of planting and harvest times on flea beetle, Chaetocnema confinis Crotch (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), damage to sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas (L.), storage roots. Planting and harvesting of sweetpotatoes later in the season resulted in less damage than early planting and harvesting. Regression analysis was done to study the relationship of weather parameters with the flea beetle damage. Weather parameters included air temperature (Celsius), soil temperature at 5- and 10-cm depth (Celsius), rainfall (millimeters), and soil moisture (volume:volume) at 0–10-, 10–40-, and 40–100-cm depth. The best regression model included mean soil temperature at 10-cm depth, total rainfall, and number of adults caught on yellow sticky traps as independent variables (all between 1 August and harvest date of each field). Soil temperature and adult catches on yellow sticky traps of C. confinis were positively related to damage, whereas rainfall was negatively correlated. The model explained 45% of the total variation in the flea beetle damage. Soil temperature alone accounted for 32% of the total variation in flea beetle damage followed by rainfall (9%) and adult catches (4%). When the time interval was limited to 30 d before harvest, soil temperature was still the best explanatory variable accounting for 23% of the total variation in flea beetle damage followed by rainfall (7%) and adult catches (4%). Understanding the effects of planting/harvesting and weather factors on flea beetle damage will be useful in predicting the time when the sweetpotato crop is at greater risk from high levels of damage by C. confinis.
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Vol. 101 • No. 4