Manipulating Feeding Stimulation to Protect Crops Against Insect Pests?
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Enhancing natural mechanisms of plant defense against herbivores is one of the possible strategies to protect cultivated species against insect pests. Host plant feeding stimulation, which results from phagostimulant and phagodeterrent effects of both primary and secondary metabolites, could play a key role in levels of damage caused to crop plants. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the feeding intensity of the pollen beetle Meligethes aeneus on six oilseed rape (Brassica napus) genotypes in a feeding experiment, and by assessing the content of possible phagostimulant and phagodeterrent compounds in tissues targeted by the insect (flower buds). For this purpose, several dozens of primary and secondary metabolites were quantified by a set of chromatographic techniques. Intergenotypic variability was found both in the feeding experiment and in the metabolic profile of plant tissues. Biochemical composition of the perianth was in particular highly correlated with insect damage. Only a few compounds explained this correlation, among which was sucrose, known to be highly phagostimulating. Further testing is needed to validate the suggested impact of the specific compounds we have identified. Nevertheless, our results open the way for a crop protection strategy based on artificial selection of key determinants of insect feeding stimulation.
KeywordsBrassica napus Meligethes aeneus Feeding stimulation Primary and secondary metabolites Phagostimulant/phagodeterrent compounds Crop protection
We are grateful to Sam Cook and Maria Manzanares-Dauleux for their very helpful comments on this study, to Mélanie Leclair, Céline Josso, Sonia Dourlot, Christine Lariagon, and Anne Boudier for technical help during the experiments, and to the UMR IGEPP glasshouse team for taking care of the plants used. Metabolic analyses were performed on the P2M2 platform (Le Rheu, France). Maxime Hervé was supported by a CJS grant from the French National Institute of Agronomical Research.
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