About this Research Topic
Unable to run away from their enemies, plants are continuously challenged by biotic stressors such as herbivorous pests that can cause considerable yield losses. To suppress pest populations in a sustainable manner, several methods have been developed with biological control being in many cases the most successful, environmentally friendly pest control strategy. Biological pest control is an important ecosystem service delivered by natural enemies such as parasitoids, predatory insects and mites. There are three types of biological pest control, namely classical, augmentative and conservation biological control. Conservation biological control aims to preserve the populations and enhance the efficacy of naturally occurring natural enemies using various techniques of habitat modification and resource supplementation.
Elucidating the chemical ecology underlying multitrophic interactions among plants, herbivores and their natural enemies has been long recognized as the cornerstone of conservation biological control. The main chemical ecology methods proposed to suit conservation biological control are the use of synthetic volatiles, the elicitation of HIPVs, the use of plant defense inducers and companion plants, with the aim to attract and maintain natural enemies or suppress their enemies (e.g. hyperparasitoids), but also ideally methods to retract herbivores if possible. Recent discoveries have shown that nectar-inhabiting microbes (bacteria/ yeasts) can act as “hidden players” by modifying the nectar chemistry and/or by producing microbial volatiles (mVOCs) mediating parasitoid attraction to floral resources. Genetically modified plants can also play key roles in this regard.
Despite the well-known examples of push-pull farming in Africa and the importance of chemical ecology in conservation biological control, research so far has mainly focused on phenotyping the effects on natural enemies’ attraction in the lab, whereas its efficiency in pest suppression or damage control (crop performance) is still understudied. Moreover, modern approaches making use of molecular techniques such as genome wide associated studies or selection of indirect defense traits by breeders have been suggested but only rarely researched.
In addition, problems related to the application of chemical ecology methods in conservation biological control e.g. HIPVs-related false alarms, herbivore attraction, food reward unavailability and adverse plant defense impact on the natural enemies themselves may pose important limitations for the success of biological control in certain settings and thus need to be reported.
With this Research Topic we aim to bring together chemical ecologists, behavioral ecologists and entomologists working on pest control with the aim to improve conservation biological control. We believe that reporting field results or problems related to the application of chemical ecology in conservation biological control is crucial to finetune tools to enhance the efficacy of natural enemies in the field. In addition, we would like to highlight novel techniques/methods that could result in the development of novel ideas on the application of chemical ecology to pest control. We also encourage the submission of manuscripts focusing on indirect effects of chemical ecology tools on predator-prey interactions and their impact on pest suppression or plant performance.
The following article types are particularly welcomed: Original Research, Reviews, and Opinions.
Keywords: Pest Control, Crop Protection, Sustainable Agriculture, Arthropods, Biocontrol
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