Endophytic fungi alter sucking bug responses to cotton reproductive structures
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All plants including cotton host a wide range of microorganisms as endophytes. There is a growing appreciation of the prevalence, ecological significance and management potential of facultative fungal endophytes in protecting plants from pests, pathogens and environmental stressors. Hemipteran sucking bugs have emerged as major pests across the U.S. cotton belt, reducing yields directly by feeding on developing reproductive structures and indirectly by vectoring plant pathogens. We used no-choice and simultaneous choice assays to examine the host selection behavior of western tarnished plant bugs (Lygus hesperus) and southern green stink bugs (Nezara viridula) in response to developing flower buds and fruits from cotton plants colonized by 1 of 2 candidate beneficial fungal endophytes, Phialemonium inflatum or Beauveria bassiana. Both insect species exhibited strong negative responses to flower buds (L. hesperus) and fruits (N. viridula) from plants that had been colonized by candidate endophytic fungi relative to control plants under both no-choice and choice conditions. Behavioral responses of both species indicated that the insects were deterred prior to contact with plant tissues from endophyte-colonized plants, suggesting a putative role for volatile compounds in mediating the negative response. Our results highlight the role of fungal endophytes as plant mutualists that can have positive effects on plant resistance to pests.
author list (cited authors)
Sword, G. A., Tessnow, A., & Ek‐Ramos, M. J.