Silicon-Mediated Enhancement of Herbivore Resistance in Agricultural Crops

Flor E. Acevedo, Michelle Peiffer, Swayamjit Ray, Ching Wen Tan, Gary W. Felton

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21 Scopus citations


Silicon (Si) is a beneficial mineral that enhances plant protection against abiotic and biotic stresses, including insect herbivores. Si increases mechanical and biochemical defenses in a variety of plant species. However, the use of Si in agriculture remains poorly adopted despite its widely documented benefits in plant health. In this study, we tested the effect of Si supplementation on the induction of plant resistance against a chewing herbivore in crops with differential ability to accumulate this element. Our model system comprised the generalist herbivore fall armyworm (FAW) Spodoptera frugiperda and three economically important plant species with differential ability to uptake silicon: tomato (non-Si accumulator), soybean, and maize (Si-accumulators). We investigated the effects of Si supply and insect herbivory on the induction of physical and biochemical plant defenses, and herbivore growth using potted plants in greenhouse conditions. Herbivory and Si supply increased peroxidase (POX) activity and trichome density in tomato, and the concentration of phenolics in soybean. Si supplementation increased leaf Si concentration in all plants. Previous herbivory affected FAW larval weight gain in all plants tested, and the Si treatment further reduced weight gain of larvae fed on Si accumulator plants. Notably, our results strongly suggest that non-glandular trichomes are important reservoirs of Si in maize and may increase plant resistance to chewing herbivores. We conclude that Si offers transient resistance to FAW in soybean, and a more lasting resistance in maize. Si supply is a promising strategy in management programs of chewing herbivores in Si-accumulator plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number631824
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Feb 11 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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