Population density and feeding duration of cabbage looper larvae on tomato plants alter the levels of plant volatile emissions



BACKGROUND: As part of their indirect defense, plants under herbivore attack release volatile chemicals that attract natural enemies of the herbivore. This is a very well-documented phenomenon. However, relatively few studies have investigated the response of plants to different population levels of herbivores and their feeding duration.

RESULTS: Working with larvae of the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni (Hübner), and tomato plants, Lycopersicon esculentum Mill cv. clarence, and using an ultrafast gas chromatograph (the zNose™) for volatile analyses, the authors studied the effect of larval density and feeding duration on levels of plant volatile emissions. Intense herbivory caused higher emission levels of the herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, (E)-β-ocimene and β-caryophyllene than those caused by moderate herbivory. When herbivory had ceased following 12–24 h of larval feeding, plants kept releasing HIPVs at a high level for a longer period of time than they did following only 6 h of larval feeding. The plants' slow adjustment in their volatile emissions following prolonged larval feeding might be strategic, as such feeding is more likely to have ceased just temporarily.

CONCLUSION: This information may help in the development of a pest monitoring system that is based on herbivore-induced plant volatiles. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry