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Research Dataset: Fall Armyworm and the response to Zinc fertiliser in Maize

Elizabeth Kells Rowan at the University of Penn State has recently published a dataset from field and laboratory trials which looks at the impact of zinc fertiliser on fall armyworm in Corn (see below link).

This dataset caught my eye as there is an ongoing debate in the UK and USA about whether or not healthy plants ‘attract’ fewer pests. 

In this study, the authors found that zinc increases nitrogen uptake in the plants. This in turn increases the protein content in the leaves, and fall armyworm perform better under these circumstances even though plants should theoretically should be able to mount better defences against insect herbivores when nutrition is optimal. The results were conclusive in the laboratory, but the effect in the field was small. Interestingly, this is the opposite to what we have observed with aphid pests in the UK, where early work suggests aphids are more attracted to plants infected with insect-vectored viruses. This may partly be because the virus alters the semio-chemicals emitted by the plants, increasing their attractiveness to aphids.

Unfortunately this data is not linked to a published paper, but given the current debate it is worth highlighting.

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