New research gives insight into warding off insect pests by way of nematode odors

February 27, 2019

COLLEGE STATION -- A recent study revealed insect-killing nematodes also produce distinctive chemical cues that enhance plant defenses and deter Colorado potato beetles.

Entomologists from Texas A&M University, including Dr. Anjel Helms, who led the study, and Penn State University took a look at whether Colorado potato beetles and potato plants responded to the presence of entomopathogenic nematodes, EPNs, or insect-killing nematodes.

The study, "Chemical cues linked to risk: cues from below-ground natural enemies enhance plant defenses and influence herbivore behavior and performance," focused on how organisms communicate using signals and cues, specifically how organisms eavesdrop on each other as part of their survival strategies, said Helms.

"For this study, we wanted to flip things around and determine whether plants and insect herbivores can eavesdrop on chemical cues produced by a predator," she said.

Throughout the study, Helms found that these insect-killing nematodes do produce distinctive chemical cues that both the plant and insect herbivores respond to. While the female Colorado potato beetles laid fewer eggs when the cues were present, the potato plant also increased its defenses.

This was especially important since the Colorado potato beetle is notorious for developing insecticide resistance, making them an especially devastating pest, she said.

"Although Colorado potato beetles feed above ground on plant leaves, they are susceptible to EPNs at all life stages," she said.

While a beetle is not likely to come in contact with EPNs during most stages of life, it is most susceptible to EPNs while on the ground moving from plant to plant, or when entering the soil to pupate and emerge as an adult beetle.

The study also found that growers can experience additional benefits from using EPNs for biological control of insect pests.

"Not only are the EPNs directly killing insect pests in the soil, they also produce chemical cues that provide additional protection to plants," Helms said. "They deter herbivores and enhance plant resistance to pests."
-end-
Writer: Laura Muntean, 979-847-9211, laura.muntean@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Anjel Helms, 979-458-5749, amhelms@tamu.edu

Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

Related Plants Articles from Brightsurf:

When plants attack: parasitic plants use ethylene as a host invasion signal
Researchers from Nara Institute of Science and Technology have found that parasitic plants use the plant hormone ethylene as a signal to invade host plants.

210 scientists highlight state of plants and fungi in Plants, People, Planet special issue
The Special Issue, 'Protecting and sustainably using the world's plants and fungi', brings together the research - from 210 scientists across 42 countries - behind the 2020 State of the World's Plants and Fungi report, also released today by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

New light for plants
Scientists from ITMO in collaboration with their colleagues from Tomsk Polytechnic University came up with an idea to create light sources from ceramics with the addition of chrome: the light from such lamps offers not just red but also infrared (IR) light, which is expected to have a positive effect on plants' growth.

How do plants forget?
The study now published in Nature Cell Biology reveals more information on the capacity of plants, identified as 'epigenetic memory,' which allows recording important information to, for example, remember prolonged cold in the winter to ensure they flower at the right time during the spring.

The revolt of the plants: The arctic melts when plants stop breathing
A joint research team from POSTECH and the University of Zurich identifies a physiologic mechanism in vegetation as cause for Artic warming.

How plants forget
New work published in Nature Cell Biology from an international team led by Dr.

Ordering in? Plants are way ahead of you
Dissolved carbon in soil can quench plants' ability to communicate with soil microbes, allowing plants to fine-tune their relationships with symbionts.

When good plants go bad
Conventional wisdom suggests that only introduced species can be considered invasive and that indigenous plant life cannot be classified as such because they belong within their native range.

How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.

Can plants tell us something about longevity?
The oldest living organism on Earth is a plant, Methuselah a bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) (pictured below) that is over 5,000 years old.

Read More: Plants News and Plants Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.