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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2003 Apr;14(2):169-76.

Attracting friends to feast on foes: engineering terpene emission to make crop plants more attractive to herbivore enemies.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Beutenberg Campus, Winzerlaer Strasse 10, D-07745, Jena, Germany.


When attacked by herbivorous insects or mites, some plant species call on other arthropods for help. They emit mixtures of volatile compounds, dominated by terpenes, to attract carnivorous arthropods that prey on or parasitise herbivores and so reduce further damage. This fascinating defence strategy offers a new, environmentally friendly approach to crop protection. Using recent advances in the biochemistry and molecular genetics of terpene biosynthesis, it should now be possible to engineer crop plants that release terpenes for attracting herbivore enemies. By introducing or selectively altering the existing rate of terpene emission and composition, plant breeders could enable attacked plants to attract enemies and reduce additional herbivory, without compromising the effectiveness of other modes of defence.

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