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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Comparing Exogenous Methods to Induce Plant-Resistance Against a Bark-Feeding Insect

Chen, Yayuan; Puentes, Adriana; Bjorkman, Christer; Brosset, Agnes; Bylund, Helena


Exogenous application of the plant hormone methyl jasmonate (MeJA) can trigger induced plant defenses against herbivores, and has been shown to provide protection against insect herbivory in conifer seedlings. Other methods, such as mechanical damage to seedlings, can also induce plant defenses, yet few have been compared to MeJA and most studies lack subsequent herbivory feeding tests. We conducted two lab experiments to: (1) compare the efficacy of MeJA to mechanical damage treatments that could also induce seedling resistance, (2) examine if subsequent insect damage differs depending on the time since induction treatments occurred, and (3) assess if these induction methods affect plant growth. We compared Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seedlings sprayed with MeJA (10 or 15 mM) to seedlings subjected to four different mechanical bark damage treatments (two different bark wound sizes, needle-piercing damage, root damage) and previous pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) damage as a reference treatment. The seedlings were exposed to pine weevils 12 or 32 days after treatments (early and late exposure, hereafter), and resistance was measured as the amount of damage received by plants. At early exposure, seedlings treated with needle-piercing damage received significantly more subsequent pine weevil feeding damage than those treated with MeJA. Seedlings treated with MeJA and needle-piercing damage received 84% less and 250% more pine weevil feeding, respectively, relative to control seedlings. The other treatments did not differ statistically from control or MeJA in terms of subsequent pine weevil damage. For the late exposure group, plants in all induction treatments tended to receive less pine weevil feeding (yet this was not statistically significant) compared to control seedlings. On the other hand, MeJA significantly slowed down seedling growth relative to control and all other induction treatments. Overall, the mechanical damage treatments appeared to have no or variable effects on seedling resistance. One of the treatments, needle-piercing damage, actually increased pine weevil feeding at early exposure. These results therefore suggest that mechanical damage shows little potential as a plant protection measure to reduce feeding by a bark-chewing insect.


simulated herbivory; root damage; methyl jasmonate; forest regeneration; true insect herbivory; wounding

Published in

Frontiers in Plant Science
2021, Volume: 12, article number: 695867