"The use of this indirect defense is an attractive strategy to increase plant resistance against herbivores and to reduce the use of chemical pesticides," Degenhardt says. "The transgenic corn plants used in these experiments have no commercial value and the experiments simply served a 'proof of principle' that the EβC emission helps to protect the plants against underground infestation." The EβC trait is present in other, mainly European, corn varieties as well as in the maize ancestor species. The trait could be reintroduced into deficient plants by conventional breeding. On the other hand, generating EβC emitting maize varieties by means of gene technology may have advantages: it is faster and prevents the loss of other important traits.
In further experiments the researchers want to determine the most effective way the nematodes and their response to the EβC can be applied. Moreover, the diffusing properties of caryophyllene make it an ideal belowground signal that could also serve to protect other crop plants. A patent for this approach has been filed. [JWK, TT]
|Contact: Joerg Degenhardt|
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology