Plant exposure to herbivore-induced plant volatiles: a sustainable approach through eliciting plant defenses.
Modern agricultural policies across the globe are committed to a significant reduction in chemical pesticide dependency; however, pest management strategies are still based on the use of synthetic pesticides. There is an urgent need to find new, sustainable and biorational tools for pest management programs. Plants communicate with each other and activate defense mechanisms against pests using herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs). The use of such HIPVs could be an ecologically sustainable alternative. However, as of now, there have been no comprehensive studies on HIPVs, from selection to practical use in industry production. Here, we describe the first case of an HIPV successfully implemented for pest control under commercial greenhouse conditions. In this research, tomato plants induced with (Z)-3-hexenyl propanoate [(Z)-3-HP] were less susceptible to the attack of economically important tomato pests. We designed and calibrated polymeric dispensers for the constant release of (Z)-3-HP. These dispensers maintained commercial tomato plant defenses activated for more than two months reducing herbivore pest damage without reducing plant productivity. Transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses of plants induced with (Z)-3-HP confirmed that genes involved in specialized anti-herbivore defense were up-regulated, resulting in an increased production of fatty acid-derived compounds, activation of the lipoxygenase pathway and accumulation of specific defense compounds. Our work demonstrates under commercial greenhouse conditions how the release of HIPVs as elicitors of plant defenses via designed polymeric dispensers can be successfully integrated as a new biorational and sustainable tool for pest control.