Increased plant genotypic diversity in crop fields can promote ecosystem services including pest control, but understanding of mechanisms behind herbivore population responses to cultivar mixtures is limited. We studied aphid settling on barley plants exposed to volatiles from different cultivars, aphid population development in monocultures and two-cultivar mixtures, and differences in volatile composition between studied cultivars. Aphid responses to one cultivar in a mixture were neighbor-specific and this was more important for pest suppression than the overall mixture effect, aphid colonization patterns, or natural enemy abundance. Aphid populations decreased most in a mixture where both cultivars showed a reduced aphid-plant acceptance after reciprocal volatile exposure in the laboratory, and reduced population growth compared to monocultures in the field. Our findings suggest that herbivore population responses to crop genotypic diversity can depend on plant-plant volatile interactions, which can lead to changes in herbivore response to individual cultivars in a mixture, resulting in slower population growth. The impact of plant-plant interaction through volatiles on associated herbivore species is rarely considered, but improved understanding of these mechanisms would advance our understanding of the ecological consequences of biodiversity and guide development of sustainable agricultural practices. Combining cultivars in mixtures based on how they interact with each other is a promising strategy for sustainable pest management.
Keywords: aphid; botanical diversity; cultivar mixtures; functionality; genotype; herbivore suppression; intraspecific plant diversity; pest management; plant signal substances; plant-herbivore interactions; plant-plant communication; volatile organic compound.
© 2018 The Authors. Ecological Applications published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Ecological Society of America.