, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 675–679 | Cite as

Plant genotype mediates the effects of nutrients on aphids

  • J. K. Rowntree
  • A. McVennon
  • R. F. PreziosiEmail author
Plant-Animal interactions - Original Paper


Soil nutrients, and factors which influence their concentrations and bioavailability, form a basic component of bottom–up control of ecosystem processes, including plant–herbivore interactions. Increased nutrient levels are linked, through plant defence theory, with increased levels of herbivore susceptibility. The focal point of many ecological experiments examining this link is at the species level, where the response of single species is the average of many different genotypes. Here, we focus on the genetic basis of indirect ecological interactions. We investigated the effects of nutrient concentration on the population growth of an aphid herbivore across multiple genotypes of barley in relation to plant growth rate. In general, both aphid population size and plant growth rate increased with nutrient concentration. However, they were both dependent on the interaction between nutrient concentration and barley genotype. Our data raise the testable possibility of differential defense responses between genotypes of barley, for example divergent, fixed and inducible defences against aphids. We provide evidence that the indirect effects of soil nutrients on aphid population size are mediated by the genetics of the host plant.


Hordeum vulgare Indirect ecological effects Nutrient levels Plant–herbivore interactions Sitobion avenae 



We thank P. Hayes, Oregan State University and Rothampstead Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire for the providing the original barley genotypes and aphid lines. Thanks also to W. E. Harris and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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