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Interaction of insect infestation, temperature, and moisture content in bulk-depot wheat

Interaction of insect infestation, temperature, and moisture content in bulk-depot wheat

Australia Counc Sci And Indust Res Bull 209: 1-31

The changes in insect densities, temps., and wheat moisture contents occurring in bulk-depot wheat inoculated with RhizoPertha dominica were studied over a period of 10 months. Latheticus oryzae later immigrated into the exptl. plot where it eventually became numerous. The insects penetrated and bred throughout the zone studied (to a depth of 5 ft.) during the earlier part of the expt., but became restricted increasingly to a shallow surface zone with the passage of time. This change in the distribution of the insects is shown to be caused by the development of lethal physical conditions in the wheat, reproduction near the wheat surface being possible because of the existence of lower temps. and higher moisture contents. The temp. reached its maximum in 7 months (Oct.). By this time the insect density had already begun to decline, the temp. fell appreciably and the insect density fell considerably in the succeeding months. The moisture content of the surface zone decreased from the middle of winter, and became increasingly inadequate for Rhizopertha reproduction. Eventually at one point in the height of summer reproduction was impossible at any level in the wheat. Below the surface zone the wheat moisture content fell slowly throughout the period of the observations. The rise in vapor pressure as the wheat heated partly accounts for the movement of moisture away from the hot-spot, but as the lowest moisture contents did not occur with the highest temps., it is necessary to postulate also a general upward movement of the air through the heated grain. It is shown that insect density is largely dependent upon the rate at which heat is lost from the mound and, consequently, that insect density is greater in winter than in summer. The manner in which the density of the insects is controlled is of particular interest in connection with the theory of animal populations. Data are given showing that serious damage occurs only near the wheat surface. Here the loss in wheat weight was as much as 40%, but the percentage rapidly decreased with depth and below a level of about 2 ft. the damage was negligible.

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