SBE research labs publish paper in Agronomy: Will Climate Warming Alter Biotic Stresses in Wild Lowbush Blueberries?

Yu-Ying Chen, Pratima Pahadi, Lily Calderwood (School of Food and Agriculture), Seanna Annis, Francis Drummond, and Yong-Jiang Zhang published “Will Climate Warming Alter Biotic Stresses in Wild Lowbush Blueberries?” in the February 2022 issue of the journal Agronomy.

Abstract: As global temperatures rise, a growing need exists for understanding the impacts of warming on crop production. Warming not only changes crop physiology and growth but also the weeds, insect pests, and diseases of crops including wild lowbush blueberries, which have not been studied till now. Changes in pest pressures can cause instability in production and will require changes in management practices and the development of mitigation strategies. The objective of this study was to determine the impacts of warming on the prevalence of major weeds, insect pests, and diseases of the wild blueberry production system. We selected six genotypes of wild lowbush blueberries in a commercially managed wild blueberry field in Maine Northeast USA and used open-top-chambers (OTCs) to study the effects of warming for two years (2019 and 2020). Both active-heating OTCs (elevated monthly mean temperatures by 3.3 ◦C) and passive-heating OTCs(elevated by 1.2 ◦C) were employed and compared with ambient controls. Our results showed that warming did not change the prevalence of red leaf disease, blueberry gall midge, red-striped fireworm, or any weed species. In contrast, the incidence of Sphaerulina leaf spot, powdery mildew, and other leaf spot disease were significantly lower under warming treatments compared to the ambient control at the end of the growing season in 2020. Overall, different pests responded to warming differently, inviting further research to reveal the mechanisms. The lower overall pressure of leaf spot disease under warming was probably due to decreased air humidity.
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