Home Crop Monitoring Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself

Maize pest exploits plant defense compounds to protect itself


The western corn (maize) rootworm continues to be on the rise in Europe. Why makes an attempt to biologically goal this crop pest by making use of entomopathogenic nematodes have failed, can now be defined by the superb defense technique of this insect.

Of their new examine, scientists from the College of Bern, Switzerland, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, present that the rootworm larvae are in a position to sequester plant defense compounds from maize roots in a non-toxic type and might activate the toxins every time they want them to protect themselves in opposition to their very own enemies.

The western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) is a devastating pest of maize vegetation, which has unfold all through Europe. This yr’s pest monitoring in Germany revealed that the variety of beetles caught in traps has once more multiplied as compared to the earlier yr.

The insect originates from Central America, from the place it unfold invasively all through North America for the reason that Nineteen Fifties. Agricultural authorities within the US estimate that the western corn rootworm causes harm price billions of {dollars} annually.

Crops deploy refined defense methods so as to fend off the numerous species of bugs taken with feeding on their nutritious leaves or roots. Researchers from Bern and Jena have now investigated the case of a beetle larva, which exploits the plant’s defenses for its personal use.

Maize vegetation retailer defense compounds generally known as benzoxazinoids of their roots in a non-toxic type. If herbivores assault the vegetation, these molecules quickly break down into compounds which might be poisonous for many bugs. “We were able to show that the western corn rootworm stabilizes a toxic benzoxazinoid by adding a sugar molecule.

This modified molecule is used directly to keep nematodes, used as a biological control, away. Moreover, rootworms can stabilize a second plant-derived benzoxazinoid, sequester its non-toxic form in their bodies, and activate it upon nematode attack,” explains first and lead writer Christelle Robert, who initiated this venture in Jena and continued it on the College of Bern.

Therefore, the rootworm as soon as makes use of a double technique to make the most of plant defenses for its personal safety.Organic management with nematodes as soon as appeared a promising different to using chemical pesticides.

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Earlier research which concerned scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology had discovered that maize roots emit (E)-beta-caryophyllene to entice useful nematodes. Entomopathogenic nematodes within the soil, just like the useful organism Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, have the potential to invade pest bugs the place they secrete symbiotic micro organism.

The bacterial companions kill the insect host and the nematodes proliferate within the cadaver. This appeared an affordable technique to fight the western corn rootworm.

“Unfortunately, the nematodes often did not reduce Diabrotica populations very much, but it was not clear why this was the case. Thanks to the present work, we can now diagnose exactly why the biological control is inefficient. The rootworm is just too well protected with the plant’s own defenses.

Another approach to controlling the rootworm is to breed maize for more benzoxazinoid defenses. According to the new findings, this will also not have much effect on Diabrotica because of their resistance to these chemical compounds, and even makes things worse by making Diabrotica more resistant to nematodes and possibly other biological controls,” Jonathan Gershenzon from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology summarizes.

These unsuccessful approaches with organic controls and vegetation with excessive benzoxazinoid concentrations have left the scientists caught between Scylla and Charybdis and present how troublesome the rootworm is to management.

The scientists will now strive to determine the genes or enzymes which allow the rootworms to outsmart maize defenses so as to guarantee their very own survival. Maybe if these genes may be silenced, the rootworms will develop into vulnerable to nematode an infection.

“Our work illustrates how a specialized and highly destructive maize pest has evolved the ability to utilize the major toxins of its host plant to escape predation by soil-borne natural enemies.

These results provide an explanation for the limited success of biological control programs targeting the western corn rootworm,” says Christelle Robert. The examine is a vital foundation for additional investigations with the purpose to enhance the management of this main agricultural pest significantly sooner or later.


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