Entomology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Peterson JA, Ode PJ, Oliveira-Hofman C and Harwood JD (2016) Integration of Plant Defense Traits with Biological Control of Arthropod Pests: Challenges and Opportunities. Front. Plant Sci. 7:1794. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2016.01794


Copyright © 2016 Peterson, Ode, Oliveira-Hofman and Harwood. This is an open- access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CCBY).


Crop plants exhibit a wide diversity of defensive traits and strategies to protect themselves from damage by herbivorous pests and disease. These defensive traits may be naturally occurring or artificially selected through crop breeding, including introduction via genetic engineering. While these traits can have obvious and direct impacts on herbivorous pests, many have profound effects on higher trophic levels, including the natural enemies of herbivores. Multi-trophic effects of host plant resistance have the potential to influence, both positively and negatively, biological control. Plant defense traits can influence both the numerical and functional responses of natural enemies; these interactions can be semiochemically, plant toxin-, plant nutrient-, and/or physically mediated. Case studies involving predators, parasitoids, and pathogens of crop pests will be presented and discussed. These diverse groups of natural enemies may respond differently to crop plant traits based on their own unique biology and the ecological niches they fill. Genetically modified crop plants that have been engineered to express transgenic products affecting herbivorous pests are an additional consideration. For the most part, transgenic plant incorporated protectant (PIP) traits are compatible with biological control due to their selective toxicity to targeted pests and relatively low nontarget impacts, although transgenic crops may have indirect effects on higher trophic levels and arthropod communities mediated by lower host or prey number and/or quality. Host plant resistance and biological control are two of the key pillars of integrated pest management; their potential interactions, whether they are synergistic, complementary, or disruptive, are key in understanding and achieving sustainable and effective pest management.