Cassava is a staple food for people across sub-Saharan Africa. Over the last 20 years, there has been an increased frequency of outbreaks and crop damage in this region caused by the cassava-adapted Bemisia tabaci putative species. Little is known about when and why B. tabaci adults move and colonise new cassava crops, especially in farming systems that contain a mixture of cultivar types and plant ages. Here, we assessed experimentally whether the age and variety of cassava affected the density of B. tabaci. We also tested whether the age and variety of the source cassava field affected the variety preference of B. tabaci when it colonised new cassava plants. We placed uninfested potted ‘sentinel’ plants of three cassava varieties (Nam 130, Nase 14 and Njule Red) in source fields containing one of two varieties (Nam 130 or Nase 14) and one of three age classes (young, medium or old). After two weeks, the numbers of nymphs on the sentinel plants were used as a measure of colonisation. Molecular identification revealed that the B. tabaci species was sub-Saharan Africa 1 (SSA1). We found a positive correlation between the density of nymphs on sentinel plants and the density of adults in the source field. The density of nymphs on the sentinels was not significantly related to the age of the source field. Bemisia tabaci adults did not preferentially colonise the sentinel plant of the same variety as the source field. There was a significant interactive effect, however, between the source and sentinel variety that may indicate variability in colonisation. We conclude that managing cassava source fields to reduce numbers of B. tabaci will be more effective than manipulating nearby varieties. We also suggest that planting a ‘whitefly sink’ variety is unlikely to reduce B. tabaci SSA1 populations unless fields are managed to reduce B. tabaci densities using other integrative approaches.
Date published: 2018
Published by: PLOS One
Type of resource: Journal article
Resource topic: Cassava
Pest/Disease: Bemisia tabaci
File type: External link (1.52 MB)