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Other publication, 2010

Plant volatile signatures mediate host finding in insect herbivores

Witzgall, P.


Plant volatile compounds play multiple roles as communication signals and defense agents, mediating interactions with other plants, microorganisms, fungi and animals. These principle biological functions of plant volatiles are established, but the headspace of green plants contains hundred and more compounds and it is still unclear whether they all are essential and biologically active compounds or whether some of them are merely biosynthetic waste products. Assigning biological functions to plant volatiles is therefore a current research challenge. Herbivorous insects exploit plant volatiles for host-finding, and recent studies in lepidopteran species support the concept that blends of only a few key compounds encode specific host attraction. The identification of the chemicals that guide gravid females to suitable egg-laying sites is therefore essential, both for the understanding of plant-insect interactions and for the development of safe plant protection strategies. Many insect herbivores are specialist feeders and it is generally assumed that plant volatile signatures encode specificity. Yet, the plant volatiles blends known to attract moths cannot account for specific host finding and discrimination between host and non-host plants. Attempts to identify plant volatile attractants are illustrated with ongoing studies. The experimental difficulties include the lack of correlation of production and response, difficulties to obtain synthetic standards, to purify and formulate baits for behavioural tests, to conduct field tests against a noisy chemical background and to correctly assign behavioural functions

Published in

Book title: ISCE 2010 book of abstracts
Publisher: International Society of Chemical Ecology

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology

UKÄ Subject classification

Food Science
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

URI (permanent link to this page)