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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Alterations in the odor profile of plants in cultivar mixtures affect aphid host-location behavior

Tous-Fandos, Alba; Gallinger, Jannicke; Enting, Arnoud; Chamorro-Lorenzo, Lourdes; Sans Serra, F. Xavier; Ninkovic, Velemir


The effect of cultivar mixtures on aphid control is attributed to the masking or alteration of host-preferred cultivar odor cues. However, the underlying physiological mechanism remains unclear. This study assessed alterations in the volatile emissions of wheat cultivars grown together (Florence-Aurora and Forment; Florence-Aurora and Montcada) and the consequences for the olfactory preference of aphids. Volatile organic compounds were collected from wheat plants grown in a laboratory under mixed or monoculture conditions and subsequently analyzed. The odor profiles of Florence-Aurora and Montcada were indistinguishable from each other. However, the odors of Florence-Aurora and Forment grown in monocultures differed significantly from those emitted by their mixture. The Florence-Aurora and Forment mixture induced plant physiological responses that affected the emission of single volatile compounds and, consequently, altered volatile organic compound ratios. English grain aphids (Sitobion avenae) were less attracted to the odors of Florence-Aurora and Forment when grown as a mixture than the combination of the odors from Florence-Aurora and Forment monocultures. Moreover, aphids preferred clean air over the odor from the Florence-Aurora and Forment mixture but preferred the odor from the Florence-Aurora and Montcada mixture over clean air. This study highlights the beneficial effects of intraspecific plant diversity on aphid control by altering plant odors in response to plant-plant interactions. The emission of less attractive odor cues consequently affects plant-aphid interactions; hence, less attractive odors are likely to impair aphid host-locating behavior. This effect was exclusive to certain cultivar mixtures, which supports the "right neighbor" concept.


aphid host location; genotypic diversity; functionality; plant-plant interaction; plant odor cues; volatile organic compounds; wheat

Published in

Frontiers in Plant Science
2023, Volume: 14, article number: 1186425