Behavioural and chemical ecology underlying the success of turnip rape (Brassica rapa) trap crops in protecting oilseed rape (Brassica napus) from the pollen beetle (Meligethes aeneus)
There is increasing interest in the use of trap crops as components of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. Understanding the mechanisms underlying host plant preferences of herbivorous pests can lead to improved effectiveness and reliability of the trap crop. We investigated the behavioural and chemical ecology underlying the success of turnip rape, Brassica rapa, trap crops in protecting oilseed rape, Brassica napus, from the pollen beetle, Meligethes aeneus, which feeds in the flowers and lays its eggs in the buds causing yield loss. Using a semi-field arena bioassay, plant growth stage was found to be a major factor in the preference of this pest for B. rapa over B. napus. Plants at early-flowering growth stages were preferred over plants in the bud stage, irrespective of species. No preference was found when both species were flowering. As B. rapa develops faster than B. napus in the field, this could explain part of the mechanism of its success as a trap crop. However, B. rapa was preferred over B. napus when both species were in the bud stage, indicating some inherent preferences for B. rapa. Responses of M. aeneus in olfactometer tests to the odours of B. napus and B. rapa at the bud and flowering growth stages, reflected those of the semi-field arena bioassay. These behavioural responses can be explained by volatile compounds associated with the flowering stage. Phenylacetaldehyde, indole and (E,E)-α-farnesene were found to be present in air entrainment samples of both plant species at the flowering growth stage, but only in those of B. rapa at the bud stage. The former two compounds were behaviourally-active in olfactometer tests. These compounds are likely to be involved in host location by M. aeneus, and, at least partially, responsible for the attractiveness of B. rapa and its success as a trap crop to protect B. napus from this pest.