Stem nematode counteracts plant resistance of aphids in alfalfa, Medicago sativa

Ricardo A Ramirez, Lori R Spears
Journal of Chemical Ecology 2014, 40 (10): 1099-109
Plants are exploited by a diverse community of insect herbivores and phytopathogens that interact indirectly through plant-mediated interactions. Generally, plants are thought to respond to insects and pathogens through different defensive signaling pathways. As plants are selected for resistance to one phytophagous organism type (insect vs. pathogen) in managed systems, it is not clear how this selection may affect community interactions. This study examined the effect of nematode-resistant varieties on aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum) suppression, and then determined how infection by the stem nematode, Ditylenchus dipsaci, mediated ecological effects on aphids and on plant defense proteins. Four alfalfa (Medicago sativa) varieties were selected with resistance to nematodes only (+,-), aphids only (-,+), nematodes and aphids (+,+), and susceptibility to nematodes and aphids (-,-). Field and greenhouse experiments were conducted to isolate the effect of nematode infection and aphid abundance on each variety. We found that varieties resistant to nematode, regardless of aphid resistance, had the lowest aphid counts, suggesting possible cross-resistance. Aphid abundance, however, increased when plants were exposed to nematodes. Resistant varieties were associated with elevated saponins but these compounds were not affected by insect or pathogen feeding. Concentrations of peroxidases and trypsin inhibitors, however, were increased in nematode resistant varieties when exposed to nematodes and aphids, respectively. The patterns of plant defense were variable, and a combination of resistance traits and changes in nutrient availability may drive positive interactions between nematodes and aphids aboveground.

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