Timing of induced resistance in a clonal plant network


  • Editor
    T. Elzenga

S. Gómez, Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.
E-mail: sara.gomez@tufts.edu


After local herbivory, plants can activate defense traits both at the damaged site and in undamaged plant parts such as in connected ramets of clonal plants. Since defense induction has costs, a mismatch in time and space between defense activation and herbivore feeding might result in negative consequences for plant fitness. A short time lag between attack and defense activation is important to ensure efficient protection of the plant. Additionally, the duration of induced defense production once the attack has stopped is also relevant in assessing the cost–benefit balance of inducible defenses, which will depend on the absence or presence of subsequent attacks. In this study we quantified the timing of induced responses in ramet networks of the stoloniferous herb Trifolium repens after local damage by Mamestra brassicae larvae. We studied the activation time of systemic defense induction in undamaged ramets and the decay time of the response after local attack. Undamaged ramets became defense-induced 38–51 h after the initial attack. Defense induction was measured as a reduction in leaf palatability. Defense induction lasted at least 28 days, and there was strong genotypic variation in the duration of this response. Ramets formed after the initial attack were also defense-induced, implying that induced defense can extend to new ramet generations, thereby contributing to protection of plant tissue that is both very vulnerable to herbivores and most valuable in terms of future plant growth and fitness.