Complex Trophic Interactions in Agroecosystems
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Neonicotinoid pesticides are one of the most widely used agricultural chemicals owing to their high efficacy, low cost, long residual activity and systemic nature. Applications of neonicotinoid pesticides, however, have been linked to outbreaks of non-susceptible, secondary pests. In particular, applications of neonicotinoid pesticides have been associated with outbreaks of spider mites on a suite of plants including honeylocust, elm, hemlock and rose and on agricultural crops including hops and pear. Recent studies suggest that neonicotinoid pesticides alter plant quality and increase spider mite populations independent of the presence or absence of predators. The research described here will increase our understanding of how anthropogenic inputs, specifically neonicotinoid pesticides, interact with plant defense to affect cotton and corn yield. This project investigates the signaling mechanisms involved in induced defenses of two crop plants to agriculturally-important pests (mites) and studies the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on these induced defenses; describes genetic interactions between plants and mites and the effect of neonicotinoid pesticides on these interactions, particularly on expression of defense genes; quantifies the ecological impact of systemic pesticides by examining their effect on the abundance of secondary pests and their natural predators.