Powdery mildew suppresses herbivore-induced plant volatiles and interferes with parasitoid attraction in Brassica rapa

Gaylord A Desurmont, Hao Xu, Ted C J Turlings
Plant, Cell & Environment 2016, 39 (9): 1920-7
The co-occurrence of different antagonists on a plant can greatly affect infochemicals with ecological consequences for higher trophic levels. Here we investigated how the presence of a plant pathogen, the powdery mildew Erysiphe cruciferarum, on Brassica rapa affects (1) plant volatiles emitted in response to damage by a specialist herbivore, Pieris brassicae; (2) the attraction of the parasitic wasp Cotesia glomerata and (3) the performance of P. brassicae and C. glomerata. Plant volatiles were significantly induced by herbivory in both healthy and mildew-infected plants, but were quantitatively 41% lower for mildew-infected plants compared to healthy plants. Parasitoids strongly preferred Pieris-infested plants to dually-infested (Pieris + mildew) plants, and preferred dually infested plants over only mildew-infected plants. The performance of P. brassicae was unaffected by powdery mildew, but C. glomerata cocoon mass was reduced when parasitized caterpillars developed on mildew-infected plants. Thus, avoidance of mildew-infested plants may be adaptive for C. glomerata parasitoids, whereas P. brassicae caterpillars may suffer less parasitism on mildew-infected plants in nature. From a pest management standpoint, the concurrent presence of multiple plant antagonists can affect the efficiency of specific natural enemies, which may in turn have a negative impact on the regulation of pest populations.

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