Faculté des sciences

Evaluating the Induced-Odour Emission of a Bt Maize and its Attractiveness to Parasitic Wasps

Turlings, Ted C. J. ; Jeanbourquin, Philippe M. ; Held, Matthias ; Degen, Thomas

In: Transgenic Research, 2005, vol. 14, p. 807-816

The current discussion on the safety of transgenic crops includes their effects on beneficial insects, such as parasitoids and predators of pest insects. One important plant trait to consider in this context is the emission of volatiles in response to herbivory. Natural enemies use the odours that result from these emissions as cues to locate their herbivorous prey and any significant change in... More

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    Summary
    The current discussion on the safety of transgenic crops includes their effects on beneficial insects, such as parasitoids and predators of pest insects. One important plant trait to consider in this context is the emission of volatiles in response to herbivory. Natural enemies use the odours that result from these emissions as cues to locate their herbivorous prey and any significant change in these plant-provided signals may disrupt their search efficiency. There is a need for practical and reliable methods to evaluate transgenic crops for this and other important plant traits. Moreover, it is imperative that such evaluations are done in the context of variability for these traits among conventional genotypes of a crop. For maize and the induction of volatile emissions by caterpillar feeding this variability is known and realistic comparisons can therefore be made. Here we used a six-arm olfactometer that permits the simultaneous collection of volatiles emitted by multiple plants and testing of their attractiveness to insects. With this apparatus we measured the induced odour emissions of Bt maize (Bt11, N4640Bt) and its near-isogenic line (N4640) and the attractiveness of these odours to Cotesia marginiventris and Microplitis rufiventris, two important larval parasitoids of common lepidopteran pests. Both parasitoid species were strongly attracted to induced maize odour and neither wasp distinguished between the odours of the transgenic and the isogenic line. Also wasps that had previously experienced one of the odours during a successful oviposition divided their choices equally between the two odours. However, chemical analyses of collected odours revealed significant quantitative differences. The same 11 compounds dominated the blends of both genotypes, but the isogenic line released a larger amount of most of these. These differences may be due to altered resource allocation in the transgenic line, but it had no measurable effect on the wasps’ behaviour. All compounds identified here had been previously reported for maize and the differential quantities in which they were released fall well within the range of variability observed for other maize genotypes.