Contrasting effects of necrotrophic and biotrophic plant pathogens on the aphidAphis fabae

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Phytophagous insects have to contend with a wide variation in food quality brought about by a variety of factors intrinsic and extrinsic to the plant. One of the most important factors is infection by plant pathogenic fungi. Necrotrophic and biotrophic plant pathogenic fungi may have contrasting effects on insect herbivores due to their different infection mechanisms and induction of different resistance pathways, although this has been little studied and there has been no study of their combined effect. We studied the effect of the biotrophic rust fungus Uromyces viciae-fabae (Pers.) Schroet (Basidiomycota: Uredinales: Pucciniaceae) and the necrotrophic fungus Botrytis cinerea Pers. (Ascomycota: Helotiales: Sclerotiniaceae) singly and together on the performance of the aphid Aphis fabae Scopoli (Hemiptera: Aphididae) on Vicia faba (L.) (Fabaceae). Alone, botrytis had an inhibitory effect on individual A. fabae development, survival, and fecundity, whereas rust infection consistently enhanced individual aphids' performance. These effects varied in linear relation to lesion or pustule density. However, whole-plant infection by either pathogen resulted in a smaller aphid population of smaller aphids than on uninfected plants, indicating a lowering of aphid carrying capacity with infection. When both fungi were applied simultaneously to a leaf they generally cancelled the effect of each other out, resulting in most performance parameters being similar to the controls, although fecundity was reduced. However, sequential plant infection (pathogens applied 5 days apart) led to a 70% decrease in fecundity and 50% reduction in intrinsic rate of increase. The application of rust before botrytis had a greater inhibitory effect on aphids than applying botrytis before rust. Rust infection increased leaf total nitrogen concentration by 30%, whereas infection by botrytis with or without rust led to a 38% decrease. The aphids' responses to the two plant pathogens individually is consistent with the alteration in plant nutrient content by infection and also the induction of different plant defence pathways and the possible cross-talk between them. This is the first demonstration of the complex effects of the dual infection of a plant by contrasting pathogens on insect herbivores.

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