Interactions among Plants, Insects, and Microbes: Elucidation of Inter-Organismal Chemical Communications in Agricultural Ecology

John J. Beck, Hans T. Alborn, Anna K. Block, Shawn A. Christensen, Charles T. Hunter, Caitlin C. Rering, Irmgard Seidl-Adams, Charles J. Stuhl, Baldwyn Torto, James H. Tumlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The last 2 decades have witnessed a sustained increase in the study of plant-emitted volatiles and their role in plant-insect, plant-microbe, and plant-plant interactions. While each of these binary systems involves complex chemical and biochemical processes between two organisms, the progression of increasing complexity of a ternary system (i.e., plant-insect-microbe), and the study of a ternary system requires nontrivial planning. This planning can include an experimental design that factors in potential overarching ecological interactions regarding the binary or ternary system, correctly identifying and understanding unexpected observations that may occur during the experiment and thorough interpretation of the resultant data. This challenge of planning, performing, and interpreting a plant's defensive response to multiple biotic stressors will be even greater when abiotic stressors (i.e., temperature or water) are factored into the system. To fully understand the system, we need to not only continue to investigate and understand the volatile profiles but also include and understand the biochemistry of the plant's response to these stressors. In this review, we provide examples and discuss interaction considerations with respect to how readers and future authors of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry can contribute their expertise toward the extraction and interpretation of chemical information exchanged between agricultural commodities and their associated pests. This holistic, multidisciplinary, and thoughtful approach to interactions of plants, insects, and microbes, and the resultant response of the plants can lead to a better understanding of agricultural ecology, in turn leading to practical and viable solutions to agricultural problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6663-6674
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of agricultural and food chemistry
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jul 5 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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