The Mexican rice borer, Eoreuma loftini (Dyar) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), a key pest of sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) and rice, Oryza sativa L., in Texas, has not been controlled with chemical insecticides or biological agents, but some sugarcane varieties have shown degrees of resistance. Assessment of selected sugarcane leaf characteristics indicate that preference for oviposition sites is mostly determined by the presence of a leaf fold and secondarily by the availability of dry leaf tissue, both of which are antixenotic nonchemical stimuli. We suggest that breeding sugarcane lines bearing leaves that do not fold on drying could provide substantial antixenotic resistance against the Mexican rice borer. Previously identified antixenotic chemical stimuli, i.e., low quantities or absence of important nutrients in green leaf tissue, only become apparent when resistant and susceptible sugarcane varieties are compared. Varietal differences in oviposition preference, however, were not observed on excised dry leaf tissue, indicating that expression of resistance in terms of chemical stimuli requires detection of biochemicals in nearby living leaf tissue. Excised dry sugarcane leaves retain the two dominant nonchemical oviposition preference stimuli for Mexican rice borers, and the leaves effectively trapped eggs away from intact plants when dry leaves were used as “mulch” at the bottom of greenhouse cages. Under commercial sugarcane field conditions, bundled dry leaves also collected Mexican rice borer eggs. Possible applications of dry sugarcane leaf substrate for egg scouting and for trapping eggs are discussed.
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Vol. 103 • No. 4