Navigation Links
'Neighbor-plants' determine insects' feeding choices

WAGENINGEN-NETHERLANDS Insects are choosier than you might think: whether or not they end up feeding on a particular plant depends on much more than just the species to which that plant belongs. The quality of the individual plant is an important factor as well. As is the variety of other plants growing around it. But what, ultimately, makes an insect choose one plant over another?

It's a question ecologists have struggled with for decades, and the answer could have a major impact on attempts to use insects for controlling crops or attacking outbreak species such as ragwort. Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) is native to the Netherlands but its abundance in areas such as ex-arable fields can make it a pest, as it is toxic to horses and farmers can't use fields where it grows for hay.

In her PhD thesis, Olga Kostenko uses ragwort as an example to show that the 'neighbourhood' in which a plant grows is more important for insects in the end than how the plant tastes. If, for instance, ragwort plants grow in a plant community with many tall neighbours, insects will not even notice them. Consequently, the effectiveness of using insects to control such plants is limited.

Field experiments

But before she could weigh the importance of these factors, Kostenko first had to do some pioneering research into plant quality in particular. Most knowledge about the role of plant quality so far had been based on controlled laboratory experiments. Whether it would still be as important a factor under natural conditions was unknown.

Kostenko took up the challenge, planting no fewer than 1750 plants on ex-arable fields at Mossel (Ede, the Netherlands), with remarkable results. Not only did she find that plant quality wasn't the most important factor, she also discovered that the way the plants tasted to insects was actually affected by the neighbourhood in which they grew.

And not just the present neighbourhood: even plants and insects that inhabited the same spot in the past had an effect on the chemical composition of the next generation of plants. These changes in turn affected the number and the performance of insects feeding on an individual plant.

So for ragwort, having good - or bad - neighbours is literally a matter of life and death.


Contact: Carel Jansen
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)

Related biology news :

1. Fungi may determine the future of soil carbon
2. Where water is limited, researchers determine how much water is enough
3. Microbes in the gut help determine risk of tumors
4. Sex determiner gene of honey bee more complicated that previously assumed
5. What determines which sources within an episode are successfully remembered?
6. New CU-Boulder-led study finds microbial clock may help determine time of death
7. Juniper essential oil characteristics determined
8. New IOM report lays out plan to determine effectiveness of obesity prevention efforts
9. Researchers determine factors that influence spinach contamination pre-harvest
10. Weapons testing data determines brain makes new neurons into adulthood
11. Gut microbes could determine the severity of melamine-induced kidney disease
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/18/2015)... New York , November 18, 2015 ... Market Research has published a new market report titled ... Growth, Trends, and Forecast, 2015 - 2021. According to the ... in 2014 and is anticipated to reach US$29.1 bn ... to 2021. North America ...
(Date:11/16/2015)... Calif. , Nov 16, 2015  Synaptics ... of human interface solutions, today announced expansion of ... TouchView ™ touch controller and display driver ... revolution of smartphones. These new TDDI products add ... TD4100 (HD resolution), TD4302 (WQHD resolution), and TD4322 ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... segmented on the basis of product, type, ... segments included in this report are consumables, ... this report are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, ... in this report are diagnostics development, drug ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)...  Clintrax Global, Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical research services ... that the company has set a new quarterly earnings record in ... growth posted for Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of 2015.   ... , with the establishment of an Asia-Pacific ... United Kingdom and Mexico , ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... This fall, global software solutions leader SAP and AdVenture Capital ... and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health and wellness in their schools. , ... win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid trip to Super Bowl ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Massachusetts , November 24, 2015 SHPG ... will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare ... Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). ... , Chief Financial Officer, will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 ... , NY on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... -- Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today announced that its Annual General Meeting ... Israel time, at the law offices of ... th Floor, Tel Aviv, Israel . ... Izhak Tamir to the Board of Directors; , election of ... approval of an amendment to certain terms of options granted to our ...
Breaking Biology Technology: