Increased damage by western flower thrips Frankliniella occidentalis in chrysanthemum intercropped with subterranean clover

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Suppressive effects of intercropping on Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande) infestations have been reported in several crops. However, this study demonstrates that in year-round chrysanthemum, Dendranthema grandiflora Tzvelev, undersowing with subterranean clover, Trifolium subterraneum L., results in an increased thrips feeding damage. In a pot experiment, performed with chrysanthemum plants (cultivars Reagan and Tiger) grown with or without subterranean clover, significantly more leaves with silver and growth damage were found in the chrysanthemum plants with subterranean clover in comparison with the monocropped chrysanthemum plants. Similarly, the degree of deformation of leaf perimeter and leaf surface was higher in the top leaves of the intercropped chrysanthemum plant. In the soil experiment (only performed with Tiger and plants were grown in the soil in the greenhouse) intercropped chrysanthemum plants suffered a higher feeding damage as well. Analysis of the relation between silver or growth damage and the thrips pressure demonstrates that at similar thrips pressure in the intercropped chrysanthemum plants suffered significantly more damage. The higher thrips pressure in the intercropped chrysanthemum only explains the differences in damage partly. Changes in the reaction of chrysanthemum plants to thrips feeding or in the behaviour of the thrips, mediated by the presence of the non-host crop, are discussed. Our explanation is that chrysanthemum plants grown with clover are more susceptible to thrips feeding than monocropped plants. We conclude that undersowing with clover does not contribute to reduce damage by F. occidentalis in year-round chrysanthemum. Also, the influence of crop diversification on a pest cannot be foreseen until the specific characteristics of each individual crop – pest system are studied.

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