J Syst Evol ›› 2023, Vol. 61 ›› Issue (3): 550-560.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12851

• Reviews • Previous Articles    

Herbicides and their potential to disrupt plant-insect chemical communication

Sergio E. Ramos1*, Moe Bakhtiari2, Miguel Castañeda-Zárate3, Veronica Iriart1, and Tia-Lynn Ashman1   

  1. 1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh 15260 PA, USA
    2 Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
    3 School of Life Sciences, Centre for Functional Biodiversity, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
    *Author for correspondence. E-mail:s.ramos.castro@gmail.com
  • Received:2021-11-24 Revised:2022-03-25 Online:2022-04-04 Published:2023-05-01

Abstract: Ecological interactions between plants and insects are of paramount importance for the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Herbicides have long been considered a threat to plant and insect populations, but global increases in intensive agriculture and availability of herbicide-resistant crops have intensified concerns about their full impact on biodiversity. Here, we argue that exposure to sublethal herbicide doses has the potential to alter plant-insect interactions as a result of disruptions in their chemical communication. This is because herbicides interfere with biosynthetic pathways and phytohormones involved in the production of several classes of plant volatiles that mediate plant-insect chemical communication. Sublethal herbicide doses can modify the morphological and life-history plant traits and affect interactions with insects. However, the potential changes in plant volatiles and their consequences for plant-insect chemical communication have not yet received as much attention. We discuss how target-site (disruptors of primary metabolism) and non-target-site (synthetic auxins) herbicides could alter the production of plant volatiles and disrupt plant-insect chemical communication. We suggest research avenues to fill in the current gap in our knowledge that might derive recommendations and applied solutions to minimize herbicides' impacts on plant-insect interactions and biodiversity.

Key words: chemical communication, herbicides, plant-insect interactions, plant volatiles, sublethal exposure