Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 101–107 | Cite as

Pericarp strength of sunflower and its value for plant defense against the sunflower moth, Homoeosoma electellum

  • Jarrad R. PrasifkaEmail author
  • Brent S. Hulke
  • Gerald J. Seiler
Original Paper


Sunflower pericarps provide a barrier against seed feeding by larvae of the sunflower moth, Homoeosoma electellum. Pericarp hardening is thought to be accelerated by a phytomelanin layer beneath the hypodermis, but among germplasm with phytomelanin, broad variation in sunflower pericarp strength exists. To facilitate the use of pericarp strength in sunflower breeding, resistance to mechanical puncture was assessed for diverse sunflower germplasm, and feeding tests were used to evaluate whether differences in pericarp strength prevent H. electellum larvae from penetrating achenes. Test on field-grown sunflowers indicates that public restorer lines have lower pericarp strengths compared with maintainer lines and commercial hybrids at 14 days after the start of anthesis. Interspecific crosses or plant introduction (PI) accessions believed to be resistant to H. electellum, including PI 170415, comprised a group with exceptionally high pericarp strength relative to other germplasm. In subsequent tests on greenhouse-grown sunflowers, overall results were similar, but using field-grown plants provided greater statistical power. In choice tests with achenes that differed in pericarp strength, 7- to 9-day-old sunflower moth larvae fed more often on seed protected by a weaker pericarp, at a more than 5-to-1 ratio, while 10-day-old larvae fed indiscriminately. Pericarp strength data contradict previous published results for individual entries and heterotic groups, but support the generalization that improved physical resistance to the sunflower moth is possible. To use pericarp strength in PI 170415 or similar sources, the inheritance of high pericarp strength and potential trade-offs between pericarp strength and other agronomic traits need to be understood.


Host plant resistance Pyralidae Helianthus annuus Inbred Hybrid 



We appreciate help in field, greenhouse, and laboratory tests from Theresa Gross (USDA-ARS-NCSL) and the assistance of Laura Marek (USDA-ARS-NCPIS and Iowa State University) in assembling germplasm for field and greenhouse tests. A previous version of this manuscript was reviewed and improved by Jeff Bradshaw (University of Nebraska).

Supplementary material

11829_2014_9290_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (113 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 112 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jarrad R. Prasifka
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brent S. Hulke
    • 1
  • Gerald J. Seiler
    • 1
  1. 1.Northern Crop Science LaboratoryUSDA-ARSFargoUSA

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