Volatile compounds and extrafloral nectar are common defenses of wild plants; however, in crops they bear an as-yet underused potential for biological control of pests and diseases. Odor emission and nectar secretion are multigene traits in wild plants, and thus form difficult targets for breeding. Furthermore, domestication has changed the capacity of crops to express these traits. We propose that breeding crops for an enhanced capacity for tritrophic interactions and volatile-mediated direct resistance to herbivores and pathogens can contribute to environmentally-friendly and sustainable agriculture. Natural plant volatiles with antifungal or repellent properties can serve as direct resistance agents. In addition, volatiles mediating tritrophic interactions can be combined with nectar-based food rewards for carnivores to boost indirect plant defense.
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