Cotton plants (Gossypium hirsutum L.), attacked by herbivorous insects release volatile semiochemicals (chemical signals) that attract natural enemies of the herbivores to the damaged plants. We found chemical evidence that volatiles are released not only at the damaged site but from the entire cotton plant. The release of volatiles was detected from upper, undamaged leaves after 2 to 3 d of continuous larval damage on lower leaves of the same plant. Compounds released systemically were (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate, (E)-β-ocimene, linalool, (E)-4,8-dimethyl-1,3,7-nonatriene, (E)-β-far-nesene, (E,E)-α-farnesene, and (E,E)-4,8,12-trimethyl-1,3,7,11-tridecatetraene. All systemically released compounds are known to be induced by caterpillar damage and are not released in significant amounts by undamaged plants. Other compounds, specifically indole, isomeric hexenyl butyrates, and 2-methylbutyrates, known to be released by cotton in response to caterpillar damage, were not released systemically. However, when upper, undamaged leaves of a caterpillar-damaged plant were damaged with a razor blade, they released isomeric hexenyl butyrates, 2-methylbutyrates, and large amounts of constitutive compounds in addition to the previously detected induced compounds. Control plants, damaged with a razor blade in the same way, did not release isomeric hexenyl butyrates or 2-methylbutyrates and released significantly smaller amounts of constitutive compounds. Indole was not released systemically, even after artificial damage.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science