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Higher Fertilizer Inputs Increase Fitness Traits of Brown Planthopper in Rice


Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is the primary staple food source for more than half of the world's population. In many developing countries, increased use of fertilizers is a response to increase demand for rice. In this study, we investigated the effects of three principal fertilizer components (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) on the development of potted rice plants and their effects on fitness traits of the brown planthopper (BPH) [Nilaparvata lugens (Stål) (Homoptera: Delphacidae)], which is a major pest of rice in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Compared to low fertilizer inputs, high fertilizer treatments induced plant growth but also favored BPH development. The BPH had higher survival, developed faster, and the intrinsic rate of natural increase (r m ) was higher on well-fertilized than under-fertilized plants. Among the fertilizer inputs, nitrogen had the strongest effect on the fitness traits of BPH. Furthermore, both the "Plant vigor hypothesis" and the "Plant stress hypothesis" were supported by the results, the former hypothesis more so than the latter. These hypotheses suggest that the most suitable/attractive hosts for insect herbivores are the most vigorous plants. Our findings emphasized that an exclusive focus on yield increases through only enhanced crop fertilization may have unforeseen, indirect, effects on crop susceptibility to pests, such as BPH.

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