, Volume 38, Issue 11, p 1341
Date: 26 Oct 2012

New Synthesis: Plant Volatiles as Functional Cues in Intercropping Systems

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The practice of intercropping has begun to show its enormous potential to translate discoveries in chemical ecology to improve crop pest control and reduce dependence on pesticides (Hassanali et al., 2008). However, the actual mechanism by which intercropping works remains elusive, and the proposed plant-chemistry based hypothesis was recently challenged (Finch and Collier, 2012). A common view proposes that intercrops come in two functional groups, trap plants and repellent plants, which have chemical characteristics making them attractive or repellent to a certain insect pest, thereby reducing pest pressure on the main crop. To identify the exact underlying mechanisms is crucial for the broad application of intercrop pest control strategies.

The search for generalizable mechanisms, as reflected in the three studies profiled in this essay, becomes apparent when an intercrop system is as successful in controlling insect herbivores as is the push-pull approach used to control cereal pest ...