Elicitors of plant defensive systems reduce insect densities and disease incidence

Moshe Inbar, Hamed Doostdar, Ronald M. Sonoda, Gary L. Leibee, Richard T. Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some elicitors of plant defensive systems can induce biochemical changes that enable the plant to reduce disease incidence; however, little is known about the effect of these induced responses on insect herbivores. We approached this problem using exogenous field applications of several abiotic elicitors of defensive systems in tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), and evaluated the ability of the elicitors [benzo(1,2,3)thiadiazole-7-carbothioic acid (S)-methyl ester (BTH, Actigard); Probenazole; chitosan; salicylic acid; KeyPlex 350; KeyPlex DP2; and KeyPlex DP3] to reduce pest densities and to provide cross-resistance against various insect herbivores and pathogens. Only BTH provided cross-resistance and significantly reduced the incidence of bacterial spot (Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria), early blight (Alternaria solani), leaf mold (Fulvia fulva), and leafminer larval densities (Liriomyza spp.). The effects on leafminer larval densities were more pronounced during the early stages of plant development. A trend of reduced densities of whiteflies (Bemisia argentifolii) and powdery mildew (Oidium sp.), although not significant, was also found on the BTH-treated plants. Other elicitors had no significant effect on insect populations, but Probenazole and KeyPlex 350 significantly reduced bacterial spot and early blight incidence. The antiherbivore effects of BTH on leafminers was confirmed in a laboratory two-choice experiment. Adult leafminers preferred untreated plants to the BTH-treated tomatoes as ovipositioning host plants, generally corresponding with larval performance. BTH induced high levels of pathogenesis-related proteins in tomato plants including peroxidase, lysozymes, chitinase, and β-1,3-glucanases. The possible cross-resistance role of these proteins is discussed. The demonstration that exogenous induction of plant defensive systems in the field can result in lower damage caused by various pathogens and insects, supports the hypothesis that plant defensive systems may be general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-149
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Elicitor
  • Induced response
  • Leafminers
  • Pathogenesis-related protein
  • Plant defense
  • Tomatoes
  • Whitefly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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