Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum L., is being developed as a bioenergy feedstock. The potential for large-scale production has encouraged its evaluation as a host for important grass pests. Eight no-choice studies were performed for two developmental stages of two switchgrass cultivars (‘Kanlow’ and ‘Summer’) and two experimental strains, K×S, and S×K produced by reciprocal mating of these cultivars followed by selection for high yield. Plants were evaluated for host suitability and damage differences to herbivory by four important cereal aphids, Sipha flava (Forbes), Schizaphis graminum (Rondani) (biotype I), Rhopalosiphum padi (L.), and Diuraphis noxia (Mordvilko). All switchgrasses were found to be unsuitable feeding and reproductive hosts to R. padi and D. noxia, which were unable to establish on the plants. However, both S. flava and S. graminum were able to establish on all switchgrasses tested. Differential levels of resistance to S. flava and S. graminum were detected among the switchgrasses by both cumulative aphid days (CAD) and plant damage ratings. Kanlow was consistently rated as highly resistant based on CAD and damage ratings for both aphid species, while Summer was consistently among the most susceptible to both aphids at both developmental stages, with relatively high damage ratings. The resistance of the K×S and S×K populations in relationship to their Summer and Kanlow parents indicted that they inherited some resistance to S. graminum and S. flava from their Kanlow parent. These studies provide valuable baseline information concerning the host suitability of switchgrass to four cereal aphids and the plant-insect interactions within a system that has been largely overlooked and indicate that there are genetic differences among switchgrass populations for resistance to some insects.
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