Field performance of bermudagrass germplasm expressing somaclonal variation selected for divergent responses to fall armyworm

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Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith), is the major insect pest of bermudagrass, Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers., in the Southeastern USA. Somaclonal variation in bermudagrass has produced distinctly divergent susceptibilities to fall armyworm under controlled conditions. Plant persistence, productivity, forage quality characteristics, and response to fall armyworm were assessed in field plots at Rosepine, Louisiana from 1995 through 1999. Forage quality characteristics were assessed each year, and natural infestations of fall armyworms were monitored in 1998 and 1999 Most of the somaclonal lines were similar to their parent cultivar in forage yield and quality, and none was consistently superior. Differences in forage quality characteristics among the bermudagrass lines were detected in 1996 and 1997, with little difference among lines in 1998 and 1999. All lines assessed were infested and sustained damage from natural infestations of fall armyworm larvae. Thus despite acceptable forage productivity and quality of most lines, expression of fall armyworm resistance under these field conditions was not detected. This lack of difference under field conditions, despite distinct resistance of some lines under controlled conditions, may primarily be due to either insufficient production of compounds deterring the insects for detectable effects under field conditions or loss of expression of the somaclonally acquired traits even with vegetative reproduction.

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