Systemic induced resistance: a risk-spreading strategy in clonal plant networks?


Author for correspondence:
Sara Gómez
Tel:+1 631 344 4576
Fax:+1 631 344 7350


  • • Clonal plant networks consist of interconnected individuals (ramets) of different sizes and ages. They represent heterogeneous ramet assemblages with marked differences in quality and attractiveness for herbivores. Here, feeding preferences of a generalist herbivore (Spodoptera exigua) for differently-aged ramets of Trifolium repens were studied, and changes in herbivore preference in response to systemic defense induction were investigated.
  • • Dual-choice tests were used to assess the preference of herbivores for young versus mature ramets of induced and uninduced plants, respectively. Additionally, leaf traits related to nutrition, biomechanics and chemical defense were measured to explain variation in tissue quality and herbivore preference.
  • • Young ramets were heavily damaged in control plants. After systemic defense induction, damage on young ramets was greatly reduced, while damage on mature ramets increased slightly. Defense induction increased leaf strength and thickness, decreased leaf soluble carbohydrates and substantially changed phenolic composition of undamaged ramets connected to attacked individuals.
  • • Systemic induced resistance led to a more dispersed feeding pattern among ramets of different ages. It is proposed that inducible defense acts as a risk-spreading strategy in clonal plants by equalizing herbivore preference within the clone, thereby avoiding extended selective feeding on valuable plant tissues.