• Africa;
  • fertilizer amendments;
  • pest management;
  • soil acidity;
  • stalk borer

Abstract:  The effects of four silicon sources – a USA calcium silicate, a local (South African) calcium silicate, Slagment® and fly ash – on the resistance of sugarcane cultivars (two resistant and two susceptible) to Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) were studied in a potted sugarcane trial. Silicon sources were applied at 5000 or 10 000 kg/ha for the calcium silicates and Slagment; fly ash was applied at 15 000 or 30 000 kg/ha. The greatest increase in plant silicon content (particularly in stalks) was recorded for plants treated with local calcium silicate. Silicon uptake did not vary significantly between the susceptible and resistant cultivars, although the resistant cultivars had inherently higher silicon content than the susceptible ones. Treatment with silicon significantly reduced borer damage and borer performance at the higher treatment level. In general, borer damage and performance decreased with increasing rates of applied silicon and both variables were inversely related with per cent stalk silicon. On average, the higher silicon rate reduced damage by 34% in the susceptible cultivars and by 26% in the resistant cultivars, supporting the argument that susceptible cultivars benefit more from silicon treatments than resistant ones. We propose that calcium silicate amendments could be employed in the integrated, area-wide management of E. saccharina and in the management of soil acidity, both of which are widespread problems in the South African sugar industry.