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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Plant volatiles as cues and signals in plant communication

Ninkovic, Velemir; Markovic, Dimitrije; Rensing, Merlin


Volatile organic compounds are important mediators of mutualistic interactions between plants and their physical and biological surroundings. Volatiles rapidly indicate competition or potential threat before these can take place, and they regulate and coordinate adaptation responses in neighbouring plants, fine-tuning them to match the exact stress encountered. Ecological specificity and context-dependency of plant-plant communication mediated by volatiles represent important factors that determine plant performance in specific environments. In this review, we synthesise the recent progress made in understanding the role of plant volatiles as mediators of plant interactions at the individual and community levels, highlighting the complexity of the plant receiver response to diverse volatile cues and signals and addressing how specific responses shape plant growth and survival. Finally, we outline the knowledge gaps and provide directions for future research. The complex dialogue between the emitter and receiver based on either volatile cues or signals determines the outcome of information exchange, which shapes the communication pattern between individuals at the community level and determines their ecological implications at other trophic levels.


adaptation; competition; cues; defence; herbivory; pathogens; signalling; volatile emissions

Published in

Plant, Cell and Environment
2021, volume: 44, number: 4, pages: 1030-1043

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Markovic, Dimitrije
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Markovic, Dimitrije
University of Banja Luka (UNIBL)
Rensing, Merlin
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

UKÄ Subject classification

Organic Chemistry
Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


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