Recent research has revealed that goldenrod (Solidago altissima) can perceive the pheromones of its co-evolved herbivore and respond by priming its defense response, presumably because the pheromone serves as a reliable cue associated with impending herbivory. Our preliminary data indicate that American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) can similarly detect and respond to a blend of three sex pheromones being developed for a mating disruption program against three key, co-evolved lepidopteran pest species. Caterpillars that fed upon pheromone-exposed cranberry plants ate less tissue, gained less weight, and suffered greater mortality than caterpillars on control plants. Notably, cranberry plants exposed to the pheromone blend also grew more than unexposed plants, a result also found with S. altissima that suggests some plant species may not exhibit expected ecological tradeoffs between growth and defense. Building on these initial observations, we propose to (i) more fully characterize the influence of pheromone exposure to cranberry on caterpillar herbivory and survival and plant growth; (ii) elucidate key defense mechanisms underlying cranberry's responses to the three caterpillar species following exposure to the pheromones; and (iii) document field-scale effects of pheromone exposure on commercial cranberries. Our proposal aligns well with the priorities of the 'Pest and Beneficial Species' program because we will study novel, recently revealed ecological interactions, and their mechanistic underpinnings, in a high-value crop species. Moreover, our research has strong potential to reveal key, basic details of pheromone-induced defense priming and evolution of pheromonal communication systems, while contributing significantly to development of an innovative pest management strategy.
|Effective start/end date||5/1/19 → 4/30/23|
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $425,000.00