Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) is an important pest of cotton, Gossypium hirsutum L., for which many economic injury and population models have been developed to predict the impact of injury by this species on cotton yield. A number of these models were developed using results from simulated damage experiments, despite the fact that no studies have demonstrated that simulated damage is comparable to real H. zea damage. Our main objective in this study was to compare the effect on yield of H. zea larvae feeding on cotton fruiting structures at different irrigation levels, larval densities, and cotton physiological ages with damage produced artificially by removing fruiting structures by hand using simulated estimates of H. zea injury. To accomplish this, we used two irrigation levels, each divided into real and simulated damage plots. In real damage plots, H. zea larvae were placed on plants and allowed to feed; whereas in simulated damage plots, fruiting structures were removed by hand using a simulation model of H. zea damage to determine numbers and amounts of fruiting structures to remove. Each of these plots was further divided into one undamaged control plot and nine treatment plots. Each treatment plot was randomly assigned one of three damage times (early, middle, or late season) and one of three H. zea densities. In 1998, we found that only artificial H. zea damage (performed by hand removal of fruiting structures) at the highest density and during the late season decreased yield; whereas real damage caused by H. zea larvae placed on plants, and artificial damage occurring at earlier time periods and lower H. zea densities did not affect yield. In 1999, both real and artificial damage decreased yield at the higher H. zea densities compared with the lowest density, but, as in 1998, this was only true when damage occurred late in the season. The most important finding of this study was that high H. zea densities had no effect on cotton yield unless they occurred late in the season. In particular, this was true for artificial H. zea damage. The second most important finding of this study was that, with the exception of late in the season, our model for simulating H. zea damage to cotton through removal of fruiting structures resulted in similar yields as real H. zea larvae damage to cotton.
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Vol. 96 • No. 4