Diversity, distribution and role of wild crucifers in major cabbage and kale growing areas of Kenya
Mbugua, P. K.
Poehling, H. M.
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An investigation of the diversity and distribution of wild crucifer species and their importance for cultivated crucifers was conducted during 2005 and 2006 in the highland and mid-altitude semi-arid areas of Kenya. Thirteen species of wild crucifers in nine genera were recorded: Raphanus raphanistrum, Erucastrum arabicum, Sisymbrium officinale, Crambe kilimandscharica, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Rorippa nudiuscula, Ro. micrantha, Ro. microphylla, Lepidium bonariense, Coronopus didymus, Brassica rapa, B. juncea and an unidentified Brassica species. Highland areas had significantly higher species diversity and species richness than mid-altitude semi-arid areas. Species richness, diversity and evenness varied with season and location. Raphanus raphanistrum was the dominant non-cultivated species in the highlands followed by E. arabicum, which was also present and dominant in the semi-arid study sites. Diamondback moth (DBM) was recorded from ten wild crucifer species and R. raphanistrum and E. arabicum were the preferred host plant species. Overall, four larval, one larval-pupal and one pupal parasitoid of DBM were recorded: Diadegma semiclausum, D. mollipla, Apanteles sp., Cotesia plutellae, Oomyzus sokolowskii and Brachymeria species, respectively. Diadegma semiclausum was the most dominant species on all crucifers. We conclude that wild crucifers act as alternative hosts for DBM and provide refugia for DBM parasitoids, which risk local extinction through pesticide application or competition from introduced exotic parasitoid species. The wild crucifers also act as recolonization sites for DBM parasitoids.