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An evaluation of the costs of making specific secondary metabolites: Does the yield penalty incurred by host plant resistance to insects result from competition for resources?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christine Foyer, Professor Graham Noctor


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The presumption that the synthesis of 'defence' compounds in plants must incur some 'trade-off' or penalty in terms of annual crop yields has been used to explain observed inverse correlations between resistance to herbivores and rates of growth or photosynthesis. An analysis of the cost of making secondary compounds suggests that this accounts for only a small part of the overall carbon budget of annual crop plants. Even the highest reported amounts of secondary metabolites found in different crop species (flavonoids, allylisothiocyanates, hydroxamic acids, 2-tridecanone) represent a carbon demand that can be satisfied by less than an hour's photosynthesis. Similar considerations apply to secondary compounds containing nitrogen or sulphur, which are unlikely to represent a major investment compared to the cost of making proteins, the major demand for these elements. Decreases in growth and photosynthesis in response to stress are more likely the result of programmed down-regulation. Observed correlations between yield and low contents of unpalatable or toxic compounds may be the result of parallel selection during the refinement of crop species by humans.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Foyer CH, Noctor G, van Emden HF

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Pest Management

Year: 2007

Volume: 53

Issue: 3

Pages: 175-182

ISSN (print): 0967-0874

ISSN (electronic): 1366-5863

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/09670870701469146


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