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Insect pests cause serious economic, yield, and food safety problems to managed crops worldwide. Compounding these problems, insect pests often vector pathogenic or toxigenic microbes to plants. Previous work has considered plant-insect and plant-microbe interactions separately. Although insects are well-understood to use plant volatiles to locate hosts, microorganisms can produce distinct and abundant volatile compounds that in some cases strongly attract insects. In this paper, we focus on the microbial contribution to plant volatile blends, highlighting the compounds emitted and the potential for variation in microbial emission. We suggest that these aspects of microbial volatile emission may make these compounds ideal for use in agricultural applications, as they may be more specific or enhance methods currently used in insect control or monitoring. Our survey of microbial volatiles in insect-plant interactions suggests that these emissions not only signal host suitability but may indicate a distinctive time frame for optimal conditions for both insect and microbe. Exploitation of these host-specific microbe semiochemicals may provide important microbe- and host-based attractants and a basis for future plant-insect-microbe chemical ecology investigations.


John J Beck, Rachel L Vannette. Harnessing Insect-Microbe Chemical Communications To Control Insect Pests of Agricultural Systems. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2017 Jan 11;65(1):23-28

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PMID: 28073253

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