Volatiles: The key player in Plant-Insect Interactions
Authors: Sachin Phogata, Ajay Kumarb, Aman Jaiswalb, Deepak Kumar Kolib, Swati Sagarb

Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi (India) 110 012
Division of Microbiology, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi (India) 110 012


Plants, being limited by their sessile nature, have evolved multiple ways to defend themselves against enemies. Direct defence such as hard waxes, thorns or toxic chemicals which act as repellents, deterrents, or as anti-nutrients/anti-digestive compounds constitute one way by which plants escape herbivory. In addition, plants also exhibit indirect defence mechanisms which help in recruiting predatory insects that attack herbivores. Volatile emission is one such indirect defence strategy which attracts enemies of herbivores to damaged plants (Fig. 1). By this emission, plants send out a distress signal to predatory insects that interpret it as an indication of an oviposition or prey zone. These insects may be parasitoids that oviposit into the herbivorous prey or true predators that feed on the prey. Additionally, volatile emission also serves a role in a range of ecological functions including pollinator attraction, plant-pathogen and plant-plant interactions. Volatiles also function as direct defences by acting as feeding deterrents. Although direct defence is important in plant resistance, indirect defence confers phenotypic plasticity and is a useful strategy for pest control in agriculture.

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