BEATING BUGS FROM WITHIN

Bluegrass billbug larvae are difficult to control and feed on Kentucky bluegrass shoots from the inside. As an alternative to traditional control methods, researchers at Ohio State University set out to determine if overseeding endophyte-enhanced perennial ryegrasses into a preexisting stand of Kentucky bluegrass was effective in controlling bluegrass billbug larvae in the Kentucky bluegrass. Endophytes (not to be confused with endorphins — those pain-killing, brain-produced chemicals) are fungi that live inside plant tissue in a mutually beneficial manner. The plants supply the fungi with nutrients and the fungi protects the plant from insects as well as imparting enhanced growth and vigor, improved drought resistance and better seed germination.

The researchers were right on target with their hypothesized control alternative. Visual damage varied with cultivar, seeding rate and year, but generally decreased as the proportion of endophyte-infected perennial ryegrass increased. Larval populations declined as the proportion of endophyte-infected ryegrass increased. However no additional control was found when endophyte-infected plant populations exceeded 40 percent.

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