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Ecol Appl. 2010 Oct;20(7):1787-93.

The enemy as ally: herbivore-induced increase in crop yield.

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Agroecology, Georg August University, Waldweg 26, Goettingen D-37073 Germany.


There is increasing global concern over the risk of food shortage and instability, and a concomitant demand for an increase in food production. However, the continuing expansion of agricultural areas threatens natural habitats as well as human and ecosystem health. One option for increasing food production is to maximize yields from existing farmland. Here we demonstrate that larval feeding by the Guatemalan potato moth (Tecia solanivora), considered one of the most economically important potato pests in Latin America, leads to a dramatic increase in potato tuber production. Field-grown potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) in the Colombian Andes attacked by low numbers of potato moth larvae produce a 2.5-fold higher marketable potato yield than undamaged plants. Greenhouse experiments demonstrate that this effect is induced by larval regurgitant, rather than by mechanical tissue damage. Our results indicate that compounds from the foregut of T. solanivora are necessary and sufficient to induce an increased yield in potato. Our study suggests that using (1) herbivore-derived chemical cues and (2) induced compensatory plant responses to herbivory can provide viable new tools to increase per area crop productivity.

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