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The European sunflower moth, Homoesoma nebulellum (Denis et Schiffermüller), emerged as a major new pest in Bayannur, China, in 2006. Insecticidal control with a single application is problematic because timing is critical, and multiple applications increase production and environmental costs. Management of H. nebulellum by planting date adjustment can be effective, but the optimal time window for late planting is unknown. Natural levels of H. nebulellum infestation were compared among sunflowers planted on five dates from April 25 to June 5 in two years, and the relationship between timing of adult abundance and flowering assessed. Delaying planting of sunflower from the traditional planting period of April 25 –May 5 to May 15 –June 5 significantly decreased damage by H. nebulellum. Seed infestation rate was 30–40 times higher, and number of larvae/head 75–100 times higher in the earliest two plantings than in the latest two. Within two years of implementing delayed planting in Bayannur city, infestation area decreased from 72% in 2006 to 1.5% in 2008, and production losses decreased from 4.5 ton/ha in 2006 to 0.36 ton/ha in 2008, a 97% decrease compared to 2006. Moreover, the infestation area caused by H. nebulellum was continuously controlled below 5.3% of the planting area since 2008. We found the overlap between the first two days of flowering and peak adult presence was the key factor influencing level of damage caused by H. nebulellum. Because the number of eggs laid in the first two days of flowering accounted for 68% of the total, and sunflower seed infestation rate was positively correlated with the number of trapped adults weighted by proportion of daily oviposition. Oviposition of the majority of eggs in the first two days of flowering suggests an evolutionary mechanism whereby females choose host plants most conducive to larval development, consistent with the preference-performance hypothesis.


This article is published as Cheng Y, Sappington TW, Luo L, Liu C, Wang Y, Liu S, et al. (2021) Key factors involved in reduction of damage to sunflower by the European sunflower moth in China through late planting. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0250209. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0250209.


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