Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Whiteflies sabotage alarm system of plant in distress

Date:
December 28, 2009
Source:
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Summary:
When spider mites attack a bean plant, the plant produces odors attracting predatory mites. These mites then exterminate the spider mite population, thus acting as a type of "bodyguard" for the plant. However, if the plant is simultaneously attacked by whiteflies, insects that are related to aphids, the plant becomes less attractive to the mites and therefore more vulnerable to spider mites, say entomologists.

whitefly and spider mite on a bean plant.
Credit: Copyright Hans Smid / bugsinthepicture.com

When spider mites attack a bean plant, the plant responds by producing odours which attract predatory mites. These predatory mites then exterminate the spider mite population, thus acting as a type of "bodyguard" for the plant. However, if the plant is simultaneously attacked by whiteflies, insects that are related to aphids, the plant becomes less attractive to the predatory mites and therefore more vulnerable to spider mites.

Together with German colleagues, researchers from the Laboratory of Entomology at Wageningen University published this discovery in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

The research team studied the strength of the plant's "cry for help" through a chemical analysis of the plant odour blend and found that one of the odour components (beta-ocimene) is produced in much lower quantities if the plant is not only attacked by spider mites, but also by whiteflies. The production of the odour decreases because of a lower expression rate of the plant gene that codes for a crucial enzyme in the production chain. When the researchers added ocimene to the odour of plants which were attacked by both species, the attraction of predatory mites was restored.

This recent breakthrough demonstrates that there are also herbivores that can interfere with a plant's "cry for help," possibly because the whiteflies attempt to interfere with the plant's defence system. Spider mites also produce more offspring on a plant under attack by whiteflies. For a spider mite, there are therefore two reasons why a bean plant which is being attacked by whiteflies is better than a bean plant that is not being attacked: more offspring and fewer bodyguards. It is therefore no surprise that the researchers found that the spider mite preferred plants infested with whiteflies above plants without them.

The results of this study are significant for integrated crop protection in which a combination of methods can be used to fight various pests infesting a crop. Integrated crop protection offers effective possibilities for environmentally safe pest control, and is based on a solid knowledge of the crop system and its complex of enemies. Once it becomes clear which insects weaken plant defence systems and which strengthen them, more focused research on environmentally-safe pest control will be possible, and people will no longer be caught off guard by unexpected interference from some pest species.

The fact that plants "cry for help" at all was discovered by the Wageningen research group in 1988. Since that time, various laboratories worldwide have continued studying this topic and it is now known that many -- if not all -- plants apply this type of defence. The research conducted worldwide has focused primarily on the situation in which plants are only attacked by a single herbivore. In nature, the situation is much more complex, however. Plants are involved in a continuous arms race with herbivorous insects which exploit the plant as food in a variety of ways. Spider mites suck the contents of parenchyma cells. Contrary to what their name suggests, whiteflies are not actually flies at all, but sap-sucking insects related to aphids, which suck from the vascular tissue located deeper in the plant. Some insects reinforce the plant's defence system which protects it from other predators.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wageningen University and Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhang et al. Whiteflies interfere with indirect plant defense against spider mites in Lima bean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0907890106

Cite This Page:

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Whiteflies sabotage alarm system of plant in distress." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091127133220.htm>.
Wageningen University and Research Centre. (2009, December 28). Whiteflies sabotage alarm system of plant in distress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091127133220.htm
Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Whiteflies sabotage alarm system of plant in distress." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091127133220.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

Raw: Three Rare White Tiger Cubs Debut at Zoo

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) The Buenos Aires Zoo debuted a trio of rare white Bengal tiger cubs on Wednesday. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins