Most studies on plant-herbivore interactions focus on either root or shoot herbivory in isolation, but above- and belowground herbivores may interact on a shared host plant. Cotton (Gossypium spp.) produces gossypol and a variety of other gossypol-like terpenoids that exhibit toxicity to a wide range of herbivores and pathogens. Cotton plants also can emit herbivore-induced volatile compounds at the site of damage and systemically on all tissues above the site of damage. As these volatile compounds attract natural enemy species of the herbivore, they are thought to represent an indirect plant defense. Our study quantified gossypol and gossypol-like compounds in cotton plants with foliage feeding (Heliocoverpa zea), root feeding (Meloidogyne incognita), or their combination. Cotton plants with these treatments were studied also with respect to induced local and systemic volatile production and the attraction of the parasitic wasp Microplitis croceipes to those plants. We also evaluated whether foliage or root feeding affected foliar nitrogen levels in cotton. After 48 hr of leaf feeding and 5 wk of root feeding, local and systemic induction of volatiles (known to attract parasitoids such as M. croceipes) occurred with herbivore damage to leaves, and it increased in levels when root herbivory was added. Nevertheless, M. croceipes were equally attracted to plants with both leaf and root damage and leaf damage only. In contrast to previous studies in cotton, production of gossypol and gossypol-like compounds was not induced in leaf and root tissue following foliage or root herbivory, or their combination. We conclude that root feeding by M. incognita has little influence on direct and indirect defenses of Gossypium hirsutum against insect herbivory.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics