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Michigan State University scholar Andrea Glassmire and her colleagues have revealed how the mixture of chemical weapons deployed by plants keeps marauding insects off base better than a one-note defense. This insight goes beyond the ecological convention of studying a single chemical compound a plant is packing and offers new ways to approach agricultural pest management. The research was published in today's Ecology Letters.
Glassmire, a post-doctoral scholar in MSU's Department of Entomology and colleagues from the University of Nevada, Reno, found important relationships between plant defensive chemistry in the neotropical shrub, Piper kelleyi, and its associated insect pests.
Plants - Pests - Bouquet - Chemical - Compounds
Since plants cannot move, they defend against pests that eat them using a bouquet of chemical compounds. Ecology, however, has been biased towards studying effects of single compounds even though a feeding insect would encounter a blend of plant compounds. It turns out that the type of defense bouquet matters, whether bouquets have the same compounds or a blend of different compounds.
"If we can figure out the specific type of defense bouquet that is most effective at reducing insect feeding, then we can extrapolate these findings to agricultural systems to cut down on pesticide use," said Glassmire.
Glassmire - Colleagues - Plant - Chemical - Defenses
Glassmire and colleagues manipulated plant chemical defenses in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador using a field experiment where plants were hung at different heights in the forest understory, exposing them to a range of light levels.
Their results suggest P. kelleyi plants consisting of defense bouquets having more kinds of...
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