Plants have direct and indirect constitutively produced and inducible defenses against herbivores and pathogens, which can substantially aid in their ability to defend themselves. However, very little is known about the influence of agronomic factors on such defenses. Here, we tested the effects of nitrogen levels and water availability on the ability of cotton plants to deter feeding by Spodoptera exigua through induction of anti-feedants, and to attract Microplitis croceipes through systemic induction of volatile emission. Cotton plants were grown with various nitrogen levels and were either exposed to water stress or normal water before being exposed to S. exigua for 48 h for induction of defenses. Dual choices of various nitrogen and water treatments were provided to M. croceipes in flight tunnel bioassays. Dual choices of leaf tissue from the various nitrogen and water treatments were provided to S. exigua larvae. Both water stress and nitrogen levels under and over the recommended levels increased leaf tissue consumption and decreased attraction of M. croceipes to the plants. Analyses of induced volatiles released from herbivore damaged plants indicate that their concentrations differ among the nitrogen levels tested with plants receiving no nitrogen or twice the recommended dose having amounts much lower than plants receiving the recommended dose. Because both direct and indirect plant defense mechanisms are negatively affected by improper nitrogen and insufficient water, we argue that these factors should be considered for a better natural control of pests in cotton and most probably in other crops.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Insect Science