Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 311–348 | Cite as

Defence mechanisms of Brassicaceae: implications for plant-insect interactions and potential for integrated pest management. A review

Review article


Brassica crops are grown worldwide for oil, food and feed purposes, and constitute a significant economic value due to their nutritional, medicinal, bioindustrial, biocontrol and crop rotation properties. Insect pests cause enormous yield and economic losses in Brassica crop production every year, and are a threat to global agriculture. In order to overcome these insect pests, Brassica species themselves use multiple defence mechanisms, which can be constitutive, inducible, induced, direct or indirect depending upon the insect or the degree of insect attack. Firstly, we give an overview of different Brassica species with the main focus on cultivated brassicas. Secondly, we describe insect pests that attack brassicas. Thirdly, we address multiple defence mechanisms, with the main focus on phytoalexins, sulphur, glucosinolates, the glucosinolate-myrosinase system and their breakdown products. In order to develop pest control strategies, it is important to study the chemical ecology, and insect behaviour. We review studies on oviposition regulation, multitrophic interactions involving feeding and host selection behaviour of parasitoids and predators of herbivores on brassicas. Regarding oviposition and trophic interactions, we outline insect oviposition behaviour, the importance of chemical stimulation, oviposition-deterring pheromones, glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, nitriles, and phytoalexins and their importance towards pest management. Finally, we review brassicas as cover and trap crops, and as biocontrol, biofumigant and biocidal agents against insects and pathogens. Again, we emphasise glucosinolates, their breakdown products, and plant volatile compounds as key components in these processes, which have been considered beneficial in the past and hold great prospects for the future with respect to an integrated pest management.

Brassicas insect pests chemical ecology trophic levels glucosinolates isothiocyanates defence mechanisms biocontrol trap crops integrated pest management 


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Copyright information

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ishita Ahuja
    • 1
  • Jens Rohloff
    • 1
  • Atle Magnar Bones
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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