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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Chemistry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #350210

Research Project: Insect, Nematode, and Plant Semiochemical Communication Systems

Location: Chemistry Research

Title: Interactions among plants, insects, and microbes: elucidation of inter-organismal chemical communications in agricultural ecology

Author
item Beck, John
item Alborn, Hans
item Block, Anna
item Christensen, Shawn
item Hunter, Charles
item Rering, Caitlin
item Seidl-adams, Irmgard - Pennsylvania State University
item Stuhl, Charles
item Torto, Baldwyn - International Centre Of Insect Physiology And Ecology
item Tumlinson, James - Pennsylvania State University

Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/12/2018
Publication Date: 6/12/2018
Citation: Beck, J.J., Alborn, H.T., Block, A.K., Christensen, S.A., Hunter III, C.T., Rering, C.C., Seidl-Adams, I., Stuhl, C.J., Torto, B., Tumlinson, J.H. 2018. Interactions among plants, insects, and microbes: elucidation of inter-organismal chemical communications in agricultural ecology. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 66(26):6663-6674. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.8b01763.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.8b01763

Interpretive Summary: Human agricultural practices began roughly 10,000 years ago, with the implied use of chemical compounds for control of insects documented approximately 5,500 years later. Correspondingly, the use of plants and their metabolites to protect agricultural plants have greatly progressed over the course of agricultural research. Since the early use of a plant-based insecticide more than 2,000 years ago (i.e., dried Chrysanthemum flowers), the observation and understanding of agricultural ecology has been a powerful source of controlling insect and microbial pests. The last two decades has witnessed a sustained increase in the study of plant-emitted odors and their role in plant-insect, plant-microbe and plant-plant interactions. While each of these binary systems involves complex chemical and biochemical processes between the two organisms, the progression of increasing complexity toward a ternary system (i.e., plant-insect-microbe) presents higher-order complexity for not only the experimental design, but more importantly the analysis of the resultant data. This challenge of investigating and interpreting a plant's defensive response to multiple biotic (living organisms) stressors will be even greater if abiotic stressors (non-living, i.e., temperature or water) are factored into the system. In this Perspective we will discuss how a systems approach to plant-insect-microbe interactions can lead to a better understanding of agricultural ecology, in turn leading to viable solutions to agricultural problems. We will also discuss the background, challenges, and possible consequences of a systems approach.

Technical Abstract: The last two decades have witnessed a sustained increase in the study of plant-emitted volatiles and their role in plant-insect, plant-microbe and plant-plant interactions. While each of these binary systems involves complex chemical and biochemical processes between the two organisms, the progression of increasing complexity toward a ternary system (i.e., plant-insect-microbe) requires non-trivial planning that includes: an experimental design that factors in potential overarching ecological interactions regarding the binary or ternary system; correctly identifying and understanding unexpected observations that may occur during the experiment; and, thorough interpretation of the resultant data. This challenge of planning, performing and interpreting a plant’s defensive response to multiple biotic stressors will be even greater when abiotic stressors (i.e., temperature or water) are factored into the system. To fully understand the system, we need to not only continue to investigate and understand the volatile profiles, but also include and understand the biochemistry of the plant’s response to these stressors. In this Perspective, we provide examples and discuss interaction considerations with respect to how readers and future authors of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry can contribute their expertise toward the extraction and interpretation of chemical information exchanged between agricultural commodities and their associated pests. This holistic, multidisciplinary and thoughtful approach to interactions of plants, insects, and microbes, and the resultant response of the plants, can lead to a better understanding of agricultural ecology, in turn leading to practical and viable solutions to agricultural problems.