The effect of modifying the glucosinolate content of leaves of oilseed rape (Brassica napus ssp. oleifera) on its interaction with specialist and generalist pests


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Twenty eight Brassica napus lines were developed which had contrasting leaf glucosinolate profiles to those found in commercial oilseed rape cultivars. The lines varied both in the total amount of aliphatic glucosinolates and in the ratio of different side chain structures. The lines were used in field experiments to assess the manner by which glucosinolates mediate the interactions between Brasssica and specialist pests (Psylliodes chrysocephala and Pieris rapae) and generalist pests (pigeons and slugs). Increases in the level of glucosinolates resulted in greater damage by adult flea beetles (P. chrysocephala) and a greater incidence of Pieris rapae larvae, but reduced the extent of grazing by pigeons and slugs. Decreasing the side chain length of aliphatic glucosinolates and reducing the extent of hydroxylation of butenyl glucosinolates increased the extent of adult flea beetle feeding. The implications of modifying the glucosinolate content of the leaves of oilseed rape and the role of these secondary metabolites in plant/herbivore interactions are discussed.