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Plant Variety, Mycorrhization, and Herbivory Influence Induced Volatile Emissions and Plant Growth Characteristics in Tomato

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Plants produce a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that mediate vital ecological interactions between herbivorous insects, their natural enemies, plants, and soil dwelling organisms including arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). The composition, quantity, and quality of the emitted VOCs can vary and is influenced by numerous factors such as plant species, variety (cultivar), plant developmental stage, root colonization by soil microbes, as well as the insect developmental stage, and level of specialization of the attacking herbivore. Understanding factors shaping VOC emissions is important and can be leveraged to enhance plant health and pest resistance. In this greenhouse study, we evaluated the influence of plant variety, mycorrhizal colonization, herbivory, and their interactions on the composition of emitted volatiles in tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Four tomato varieties from two breeding histories (two heirlooms and two hybrids), were used. Tomato plants were inoculated with a commercial inoculum blend consisting of four species of AMF. Plants were also subjected to herbivory by Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae L.) five weeks after transplanting. Headspace volatiles were collected from inoculated and non-inoculated plants with and without herbivores using solid phase-microextraction. Volatile profiles consisted of 21 different volatiles in detectable quantities. These included monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and alkane hydrocarbons. We documented a strong plant variety effect on VOC emissions. AMF colonization and herbivory suppressed VOC emissions. Plant biomass was improved by colonization of AMF. Our results show that mycorrhization, herbivory and plant variety can alter tomato plant VOC emissions and further shape volatile-mediated insect and plant interactions.

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We thank: Jim and Joyce Nardi, Larry Hanks, Anna Grommes, and Kim Leigh; Department of Entomology at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Guirong Zhang of Crop Sciences at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Rosalie Metallo, Heather Lash and Montgomery W. Flack; Plant Care Facility University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Lily Wilcock and Aaron Mleziva for statistical consulting at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


This research was funded by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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Erinn Dady, Nathan Kleczewski, Carmen Ugarte and Esther Ngumbi contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, and data collection and analysis were performed by Erinn Dady and Esther Ngumbi. Data analyses were performed by Erinn Dady and Carmen Ugarte. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Erinn Dady and Esther Ngumbi and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Esther Ngumbi.

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Table S1

Excel table of individual VOC emissions among tomato varieties, averaged and identified by class. Compounds are arranged in order of elution during gas chromatography. (XLSX 18.4 KB)

Table S2

 Excel table of total VOC emissions among tomato varieties that were not significant by interaction. Data are averages of eight replicates (n = 8) ± SE. (XLSX 10.1 KB)

Table S3

Excel table of biomass and root architecture among tomato varieties. Data are averages of eight replicates (n = 8) ± SE. (XLSX 11.9 KB)

Table S4

Excel table of mycorrhization data among tomato varieties. Each individual plant had eight slides prepared to contain five root sections each, for a total of 64 slides per treatment group. Data are averages of percent of roots colonized for eight replicates (n = 8) ± SE. (XLSX 11.3 KB)

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Dady, E.R., Kleczewski, N., Ugarte, C.M. et al. Plant Variety, Mycorrhization, and Herbivory Influence Induced Volatile Emissions and Plant Growth Characteristics in Tomato. J Chem Ecol 49, 710–724 (2023).

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