Mahanarva fimbriolata (Stål) (Hemiptera: Cercopidae) has become a key pest in the sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) fields of center-south Brazil. Although some control technologies have shown to be efficient, the damage promoted by this spittlebug species and its interaction with sugarcane are poorly characterized. At high infestation levels the symptoms are similar to those of severe water restriction. This work was conducted to determine whether the stress promoted by spittlebug infestation can be measured in terms of free proline accumulation. The water restriction tolerance of two sugarcane genotypes was also compared. Two experiments were set up in a greenhouse and arranged in a completely randomized design in a 2 x 2 x 4 factorial, with two cultivars (SP80-1816 and RB72454), two stress levels (control and ten nymphs per plant or 50% water restriction), and four sampling dates. The water deficit caused by spittlebug nymphs sucking xylem sap does not result in proline accumulation, illustrating that there are different mechanisms to sense when the water deficit is caused by insect feeding or water potential variation in root cells. The cultivar RB72454 accumulates more free-proline, and the dry mass accumulation and stalk growth are less affected in this cultivar under water restriction. The levels of compatible solutes probably cannot be used to measure spittlebug infestation stress in sugarcane and RB72454 is more tolerant to water shortage than SP80-1816.
Mahanarva fimbriolata; Saccharum spp.; proline accumulation; water deficit