Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/8/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: Social and natural scientists, the general public, and policymakers in and out of government have become aware of the importance of plant genetic resources to world agriculture and food security over the last four decades. Erosion of biodiversity in agriculture resulting from widespread cropping of high yielding, genetically uniform cultivars, coupled with the continuous and permanent loss of natural plant biodiversity, brought about by habitat destruction and environmental degradation, has resulted in this heightened interest in germplasm conservation. Significant plant biodiversity is stored in repositories of the USDA and other world genebanks and is the source of raw genetic material for sustainable crop production and the development of pest resistant crops. This chapter by a University of Idaho scientist and a USDA-ARS scientist is unique among a considerable body of literature on the uses of conserved germplasm because it details the use of this material by ecologists and entomologists for basic research in insect-plant interactions. As pointed out in this chapter, research with conserved germplasm has revealed the diversity and complexity of physical and chemical defenses in plants and how knowledge of these plant defenses is important for developing pest resistant crops. Research with genetic resources has also enhanced our understanding of plant tolerance to insect herbivory and the genetics of plant traits affecting insects. A final message is that expanded use of conserved germplasm by entomologists and ecologists has the potential to reveal more about the ecology and evolution of insect-plant interactions.
Technical Abstract: Germplasm stored in global genebanks has historically provided plant material to crop improvement programs rather than to basic programs. Nonetheless, ecologists and entomologists have used conserved germplasm for basic research to advance our knowledge of the factors mediating insect-plant interactions. For example, conserved germplasm has been used for basic research on: plant physical and chemical defenses against herbivory; factors mediating host selection; plant tolerance to herbivory; multi-trophic interactions; and the genetics of plant traits affecting insects. Information from this basic research can facilitate pest resistance breeding and expedite the incorporation of different defensive traits into commercial cultivars. This chapter also emphasizes the importance of germplasm collections as repositories for living vouchers used in basic and applied studies and discusses the limitations of collections for research in insect-plant interactions.