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The price of the induced defence against pests: a meta-analysis

Plants and phytophagous arthropods have co-evolved for millions of years. During this long coexistence, plants have developed defence mechanisms including constitutive and inducible defences. In an effort to survive upon herbivore attack, plants suffer a resource reallocation to facilitate the prioritization of defence towards growth. These rearrangements usually end up with a penalty in plant growth, development or reproduction directly linked to crop losses. Achieving the balance to maximize crop yield requires a fine tune regulation specific for each host-arthropod combination, which remains to be fully elucidated. The purpose of this work is to evaluate the effects of induced plant defences produced upon pest feeding on plant fitness and surrogate parameters. The majority of the previous studies are focused on specific plant-pest interactions based on artificial herbivory damage or simulated defoliation on specific plant hosts. In this meta-analysis, the relevance of the variables mediating plant-pest interactions has been studied. The importance of plant and pest species, the infestation conditions and the parameters measured to estimate fitness in the final cost have been analysed through a meta-analysis. Herbivore infestation reduced growth, photosynthesis and reproduction but not carbohydrate content. When focusing on the analyses of the variables modulating plant-pest interactions, new conclusions arise. Differences on the effect on plant growth and photosynthesis were observed among different feeding guilds or plant hosts, suggesting that these variables are key players in the final effects. Regarding the ontogenetic stage of a plant, negative effects were reported only in infestations during the vegetative stage of the plant, while no effect was observed during the reproductive stage. In addition, a direct relation was found between the durability and magnitude of the infestation, and the final negative effect on plant fitness. Among the parameters used to estimate the cost, growth and photosynthesis revealed more differences among subgroups than reproduction parameters. Altogether, this information on defence-growth trade-offs should be of great help for the scientific community to design pest management strategies reducing costs.


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Original Paper:

Garcia, A., Martinez, M., Diaz, I., Santamaria, M.E. 2021. The Price of the Induced Defense Against Pests: A Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Plant Science 11, 2285. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2020.615122

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