Faculty Mentor

Dr. Chad Harvey

Subject Area

Biological Sciences


Aphids and other herbivorous insects are able to travel between plants in their environment. While plants cannot directly choose their consumers, they may stop or mitigate the harmful effects of herbivory using secondary metabolites. A salicylic acid (SA) pathway facilitates defense from biotrophic fungi and some necrotrophic pathogens, while a jasmonic acid (JA) pathway is associated with defense from other necrotrophic pathogens and chewing insects. We investigated the effect of deficiency in SA or JA in Arabidopsis thaliana on plant growth and on herbivory by green peach aphids (Myzus persicae). Three ascensions of A. thaliana were placed in two blocks with three aphids on each individual. The genotypes consisted of a SA-deficient ascension (Sid2), a JA-deficient ascension (Lox2), and a wild type (Col). Wild-type A. thaliana showed significantly greater growth relative to the other ascensions, suggesting better performance, as well as dramatically higher aphid count. Aphid count showed a significant positive correlation with plant growth, suggesting that M. persicae is attracted to signs of growth in A. thaliana, or reproduces more on growing plants. It appears that wild-type plants showed greater growth throughout the experiment, and were thus targeted by the highly responsive M. persicae. This behaviour may be exploited for agricultural purposes; herbivorous insects may be diverted to fast-growing trap crops lacking agricultural value in order to protect primary crops.


aphid, Arabidopsis, Col, feeding, foraging, growth, herbivory, Lox2, Myzus, Sid2