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  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Entomopathogenic nematodes as an effective and sustainable alternative to control the fall armyworm in Africa
    (2024-04-16) ;
    Didace Bazagwira
    ;
    Livio Ruzzante
    ;
    Geraldine Ingabire
    ;
    Sacha Levivier
    ;
    ;
    Joelle Kajuga
    ;
    Stefan Toepfer
    ;
    ;
    Joann Whalen
    The recent invasion of the fall armyworm (FAW), a voracious pest, into Africa and Asia has resulted in unprecedented increases in insecticide applications, especially in maize cultivation. The health and environmental hazards posed by these chemicals have prompted a call for alternative control practices. Entomopathogenic nematodes are highly lethal to the FAWs, but their application aboveground has been challenging. In this study, we report on season-long field trials with an innocuous biodegradable gel made from carboxymethyl cellulose containing local nematodes that we specifically developed to target the FAW. In several Rwandan maize fields with distinct climatic conditions and natural infestation rates, we compared armyworm presence and damage in control plots and plots that were treated with either our nematode gel formulation, a commercial liquid nematode formulation, or the commonly used contact insecticide cypermethrin. The treatments were applied to the whorl of each plant, which was repeated three to four times, at 2-week intervals, starting when the plants were still seedlings. Although all three treatments reduced leaf damage, only the gel formulation decreased caterpillar infestation by about 50% and yielded an additional ton of maize per hectare compared with untreated plots. Importantly, we believe that the use of nematodes can be cost-effective, since we used nematode doses across the whole season that were at least 3-fold lower than their normal application against belowground pests. The overall results imply that precisely formulated and easy-to-apply nematodes can be a highly effective, affordable, and sustainable alternative to insecticides for FAW control.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Cowpea volatiles induced by beet armyworm or fall armyworm differentially prime maize plants
    (2024-01-01)
    Arooran Kanagendran
    ;
    Exposure to herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) is known to enhance the defense responses in plants. This so-called priming effect has only been marginally studied in intercropping systems. We tested whether HIPVs from cowpea, which often serves as an intercrop alongside maize, can prime herbivore-induced volatile emissions in maize. Conventional volatile collection assays and real-time mass spectrometry revealed that maize plants that were exposed to HIPVs from cowpea infested with Spodoptera exigua caterpillars emitted more than control plants when they themselves were subsequently damaged by the same pest. The enhanced emission was only evident on the first day after infestation. Maize plants that were exposed to HIPVs from cowpea infested by S. frugiperda larvae showed no priming effect and released considerably less upon S. frugiperda infestation than upon S. exigua infestation. The latter may be explained by the fact that S. frugiperda is particularly well adapted to feed on maize and is known to suppress maize HIPV emissions. Our results imply that HIPVs from cowpea, depending on the inducing insect herbivore, may strongly prime maize plants. This deserves further investigation, also in other intercropping systems, as it can have important consequences for tritrophic interactions and crop protection.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Can herbivores sharing the same host plant be mutualists?
    (2023-02-28)
    Qingsong Liu
    ;
    ;
    Yunhe Li
    Resource partitioning is considered to be a prerequisite for coexisting species to evolve from competition to mutualism. This is uniquely different for two major pest insects of rice. These herbivores preferentially opt to coinfest the same host plants, and through plant-mediated mechanisms, cooperatively utilize these plants in a mutualistic manner.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Experimental Growth Conditions affect Direct and Indirect Defences in two Cotton Species
    (2023)
    Laura Chappuis
    ;
    Alicia Egger
    ;
    ; ; ; ;
    Luis Abdala-Roberts
    ;
    Mary V. Clancy
    ;
    ;
    Cotton has been used as a model plant to study direct and indirect plant defence against herbivorous insects. However, the plant growing conditions could have an important effect on the outcome of such plant defence studies. We examined how common experimental growth conditions influence constitutive and inducible defences in two species of cotton, Gossypium hirsutum and G. herbaceum. We induced plants by applying caterpillar regurgitant to mechanical wounds to compare the induction levels between plants of both species grown in greenhouse or phytotron conditions. For this we measured defence metabolites (gossypol and heliocides) and performance of Spodoptera frugiperda caterpillars on different leaves, the emission of plant volatiles, and their attractiveness to parasitic wasps. Induction increased the levels of defence metabolites, which in turn decreased the performance of S. frugiperda larvae. Constitutive and induced defence levels were the highest in plants grown in the phytotron (compared to greenhouse plants), G. hirsutum and young leaves. Defence induction was more pronounced in plants grown in the phytotron and in young leaves. Also, the differences between growing conditions were more evident for metabolites in the youngest leaves, indicating an interaction with plant ontogeny. The composition of emitted volatiles was different between plants from the two growth conditions, with greenhouse-grown plants showing more variation than phytotron-grown plants. Also, G. hirsutum released higher amounts of volatiles and attracted more parasitic wasps than G. herbaceum. Overall, these results highlight the importance of experimental abiotic factors in plant defence induction and ontogeny of defences. We therefore suggest careful consideration in selecting the appropriate experimental growing conditions for studies on plant defences.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Laboratory and field trials reveal the potential of a gel formulation of entomopathogenic nematodes for the biological control of fall armyworm caterpillars (Spodoptera frugiperda)
    (2022-12-1) ;
    Bazagwira, Didace
    ;
    Guenat, Julie Morgane
    ;
    ;
    Karangwa, Patrick
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    Mukundwa, Ishimwe Primitive
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    Kajuga, Joellee
    ;
    ;
    Toepfer, Stefan
    ;
    The fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda Smith (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) can cause tremendous yield losses in maize. Its invasion into Africa and Asia has dramatically increased the use of insecticides in maize agro-ecosystems. Safe, effective and readily available alternatives are urgently needed. Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) represent a promising and sustainable option to control fall armyworm caterpillars on maize. Commonly used against soil insect pests, EPN can also be applied to control above-ground pests if formulated appropriately. We explored the possibility to control FAW by incorporating the EPN species Steinernema carpocapsae into protective formulations that can be easily applied into the whorl of maize plants, where the caterpillars mostly feed. We tested this approach in laboratory cage experiments as well as in field trials. In the laboratory, treating maize plants with a low dose of S. carpocapsae (3000 infective juveniles per plant) formulated in a carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) gel caused 100% mortality of FAW caterpillars and substantially reduced plant damage, whereas EPN applied in water or a surfactant-polymer-formulation (SPF) caused 72% and 94% mortality, respectively. Under field conditions, one-time treatments with S. carpocapsae applied in water, SPF or CMC decreased plant damage, but only the EPN-gel formulation significantly reduced FAW infestation. As compared to control, about 40% fewer caterpillars were found on plants treated with EPN formulated in the gel. Notably, the EPN-gel formulation was as effective as a standard dose of cypermethrin, a pyrethroid insecticide commonly used against FAW, in reducing FAW infestation. Repeated applications may be needed to reduce re-infestations by FAW across a whole cropping season depending on the local maize phenology and pest dynamics. These findings demonstrate that EPN, when properly formulated, are excellent candidates for the biological control of FAW, and can be a safe and sustainable alternative to synthetic insecticides.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Stemborer‐induced rice plant volatiles boost direct and indirect resistance in neighboring plants
    (2022-10-18)
    Chengcheng Yao
    ;
    Lixiao Du
    ;
    Qingsong Liu
    ;
    Xiaoyun Hu
    ;
    Wenfeng Ye
    ;
    ;
    Yunhe Li
    - Herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) are known to be perceived by neighboring plants, resulting in induction or priming of chemical defenses. There is little information on the defense responses that are triggered by these plant–plant interactions, and the phenomenon has rarely been studied in rice. - Using chemical and molecular analyses in combination with insect behavioral and perfor- mance experiments, we studied how volatiles emitted by rice plants infested by the striped stemborer (SSB) Chilo suppressalis affect defenses against this pest in conspecific plants. - Compared with rice plants exposed to the volatiles from uninfested plants, plants exposed to SSB-induced volatiles showed enhanced direct and indirect resistance to SSB. When sub- jected to caterpillar damage, the HIPV-exposed plants showed increased expression of jas- monic acid (JA) signaling genes, resulting in JA accumulation and higher levels of defensive proteinase inhibitors. Moreover, plants exposed to SSB-induced volatiles emitted larger amounts of inducible volatiles and were more attractive to the parasitoid Cotesia chilonis. - By unraveling the factors involved in HIPV-mediated defense priming in rice, we reveal a key defensive role for proteinase inhibitors. These findings pave the way for novel rice man- agement strategies to enhance the plant’s resistance to one of its most devastating pests.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Belowground and aboveground herbivory differentially affect the transcriptome in roots and shoots of maize
    Plants recognize and respond to feeding by herbivorous insects by upregulating their local and systemic defenses. While defense induction by aboveground herbivores has been well studied, far less is known about local and systemic defense responses against attacks by belowground herbivores. Here, we investigated and compared the responses of the maize transcriptome to belowground and aboveground mechanical damage and infestation by two well-adapted herbivores: the soil-dwelling western corn rootworm Diabrotica virgifera virgifera (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and the leaf- chewing fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). In responses to both herbivores, maize plants were found to alter local transcription of genes involved in phytohormone signaling, primary and secondary metabolism. Induction by real herbivore damage was considerably stronger and modified the expression of more genes than mechanical damage. Feeding by the corn rootworm had a strong impact on the shoot transcriptome, including the activation of genes involved in defense and development. By contrast, feeding by the fall armyworm induced only few transcriptional changes in the roots. In conclusion, feeding by a leaf chewer and a root feeder differentially affects the local and systemic defense of maize plants. Besides revealing clear differences in how maize plants respond to feeding by these specialized herbivores, this study reveals several novel genes that may play key roles in plant–insect interactions and thus sets the stage for in depth research into the mechanism that can be exploited for improved crop protection.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Comparative Screening of Mexican, Rwandan and Commercial Entomopathogenic Nematodes to Be Used against Invasive Fall Armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda
    (2022-2-16) ;
    De Gianni, Lara
    ;
    Machado, Ricardo A. R.
    ;
    ;
    Bernal, Julio S.
    ;
    Karangwa, Patrick
    ;
    Kajuga, Joelle
    ;
    Waweru, Bancy
    ;
    Bazagwira, Didace
    ;
    ;
    Toepfer, Stefan
    ;
    The fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda Smith (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is an important pest of maize originating from the Americas. It recently invaded Africa and Asia, where it causes severe yield losses to maize. To fight this pest, tremendous quantities of synthetic insecticides are being used. As a safe and sustainable alternative, we explore the possibility to control FAW with entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN). We tested in the laboratory whether local EPNs, isolated in the invasive range of FAW, are as effective as EPNs from FAW native range or as commercially available EPNs. This work compared the virulence, killing speed and propagation capability of low doses of forty EPN strains, representing twelve species, after placing them with second-, third- and sixth-instar caterpillars as well as pupae. EPN isolated in the invasive range of FAW (Rwanda) were found to be as effective as commercial and EPNs from the native range of FAW (Mexico) at killing FAW caterpillars. In particular, the Rwandan Steinernema carpocapsae strain RW14-G-R3a-2 caused rapid 100% mortality of second- and third-instar and close to 75% of sixth-instar FAW caterpillars. EPN strains and concentrations used in this study were not effective in killing FAW pupae. Virulence varied greatly among EPN strains, underlining the importance of thorough EPN screenings. These findings will facilitate the development of local EPN-based biological control products for sustainable and environmentally friendly control of FAW in East Africa and beyond.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    The Role of Herbivore-induced Plant Volatiles in Trophic Interactions: The Swiss Connection
    It is increasingly evident that plants actively respond to the threats and challenges that they come to face while growing. This is particularly manifested in the dynamic responses to insect herbivory, especially in terms of the volatile compounds that the attacked plants emit. Indeed, many plants respond to insect-inflicted damage with the synthesis and release of volatile organic compounds. These emissions, commonly referred to as herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs), play important roles in the interactions between the emitting plants and their biotic environment. The odorous signal can be picked up and exploited by various organisms: neighbouring plants, herbivores and their natural enemies, such as predators and parasitoid wasps. Coincidence or not, scientists currently working in Switzerland have made numerous key contributions to the work in this field. By highlighting their work, we attempt to give a somewhat historic overview of this field of research.
  • Publication
    Accès libre
    Cooperative herbivory between two important pests of rice
    (2021-11-19)
    Liu, Qingsong
    ;
    Hu, Xiaoyun
    ;
    Su, Shuangli
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    Ning, Yuese
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    Peng, Yufa
    ;
    Ye, Gongyin
    ;
    Lou, Yonggen
    ;
    ;
    Li, Yunhe
    Normally, when different species of herbivorous arthropods feed on the same plant this leads to fitness-reducing competition. We found this to be different for two of Asia’s most destructive rice pests, the brown planthopper and the rice striped stem borer. Both insects directly and indirectly benefit from jointly attacking the same host plant. Double infestation improved host plant quality, particularly for the stemborer because the planthopper fully suppresses caterpillar-induced production of proteinase inhibitors. It also reduced the risk of egg parasitism, due to diminished parasitoid attraction. Females of both pests have adapted their oviposition behaviour accordingly. Their strong preference for plants infested by the other species even overrides their avoidance of plants already attacked by conspecifics. This cooperation between herbivores is telling of adaptations resulting from the evolution of plant-insect interactions, and points out mechanistic vulnerabilities that can be targeted to control these major pests.