Aphid-parasitoid community structure on genetically modified wheat

Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
Biology letters (Impact Factor: 3.43). 05/2011; 7(3):387-91. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1147
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Since the introduction of genetically modified (GM) plants, one of the main concerns has been their potential effect on non-target insects. Many studies have looked at GM plant effects on single non-target herbivore species or on simple herbivore-natural enemy food chains. Agro-ecosystems, however, are characterized by numerous insect species which are involved in complex interactions, forming food webs. In this study, we looked at transgenic disease-resistant wheat (Triticum aestivum) and its effect on aphid-parasitoid food webs. We hypothesized that the GM of the wheat lines directly or indirectly affect aphids and that these effects cascade up to change the structure of the associated food webs. Over 2 years, we studied different experimental wheat lines under semi-field conditions. We constructed quantitative food webs to compare their properties on GM lines with the properties on corresponding non-transgenic controls. We found significant effects of the different wheat lines on insect community structure up to the fourth trophic level. However, the observed effects were inconsistent between study years and the variation between wheat varieties was as big as between GM plants and their controls. This suggests that the impact of our powdery mildew-resistant GM wheat plants on food web structure may be negligible and potential ecological effects on non-target insects limited.

Download full-text


Available from: Jörg Romeis, Sep 06, 2014
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A concern associated with the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops is that they could adversely affect non-target organisms. We assessed the impact of several transgenic powdery mildew-resistant spring wheat lines on insect herbivores. The GM lines carried either the Pm3b gene from hexaploid wheat, which confers race-specific resistance to powdery mildew, or the less specific anti-fungal barley seed chitinase and β-1,3-glucanase. In addition to the non-transformed control lines, several conventional spring wheat varieties and barley and triticale were included for comparison. During two consecutive growing seasons, powdery mildew infection and the abundance of and damage by naturally occurring herbivores were estimated under semi-field conditions in a convertible glasshouse and in the field. Mildew was reduced on the Pm3b-transgenic lines but not on the chitinase/glucanase-expressing lines. Abundance of aphids was negatively correlated with powdery mildew in the convertible glasshouse, with Pm3b wheat plants hosting significantly more aphids than their mildew-susceptible controls. In contrast, aphid densities did not differ between GM plants and their non-transformed controls in the field, probably because of low mildew and aphid pressure at this location. Likewise, the GM wheat lines did not affect the abundance of or damage by the herbivores Oulema melanopus (L.) and Chlorops pumilionis Bjerk. Although a previous study has revealed that some of the GM wheat lines show pleiotropic effects under field conditions, their effect on herbivorous insects appears to be low.
    PLoS ONE 07/2011; 6(7):e22690. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0022690 · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Genetically modified (GM) plants offer an ideal model system to study the influence of single genes that confer constitutive resistance to pathogens on the ecological behaviour of plants. We used phytometers to study competitive interactions between GM lines of spring wheat Triticum aestivum carrying such genes and control lines. We hypothesized that competitive performance of GM lines would be reduced due to enhanced transgene expression under pathogen levels typically encountered in the field. The transgenes pm3b from wheat (resistance against powdery mildew Blumeria graminis) or chitinase and glucanase genes from barley (resistance against fungi in general) were introduced with the ubiquitin promoter from maize (pm3b and chitinase genes) or the actin promoter from rice (glucanase gene). Phytometers of 15 transgenic and non-transgenic wheat lines were transplanted as seedlings into plots sown with the same 15 lines as competitive environments and subject to two soil nutrient levels. Pm3b lines had reduced mildew incidence compared with control lines. Chitinase and chitinase/glucanase lines showed the same high resistance to mildew as their control in low-nutrient treatment and slightly lower mildew rates than the control in high-nutrient environment. Pm3b lines were weaker competitors than control lines. This resulted in reduced yield and seed number. The Pm3b line with the highest transgene expression had 53.2% lower yield than the control whereas the Pm3b line which segregated in resistance and had higher mildew rates showed only minor costs under competition. The line expressing both chitinase and glucanase genes also showed reduced yield and seed number under competition compared with its control. Our results suggest that single transgenes conferring constitutive resistance to pathogens can have ecological costs and can weaken plant competitiveness even in the presence of the pathogen. The magnitude of these costs appears related to the degree of expression of the transgenes.
    PLoS ONE 11/2011; 6(11):e28091. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0028091 · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Aims: Many resistance genes against fungal pathogens show costs of resistance. Genetically modified (GM) plants that differ in only one or a few resistance genes from control plants present ideal systems for measuring these costs in the absence of pathogens. Methods: To assess the ecological relevance of costs of pathogen resistance, we grew individual plants of four transgenic spring wheat lines in a field trial with three pathogen levels and varied the genetic diversity of the crop. Important Findings: We found that two lines with a Pm3b transgene were more resistant to powdery mildew than their sister lines of the variety Bobwhite, whereas lines with chitinase (A9) or chitinase and glucanase (A13) transgenes were not more resistant than their mother variety Frisal. Nevertheless, in the absence of the pathogen, both the GM lines of Bobwhite as well as those of Frisal performed significantly worse than their controls, i.e. Pm3b#1 and Pm3b#2 had 39% or 53% and A9 and A13 had 14% or 23% lower yields. In the presence of the pathogen, all GM lines except Pm3b#2 could increase their yields and other fitness-related traits, reaching the performance levels of the control lines. Line Pm3b#2 seemed to have lost its phenotypic plasticity and had low performance in all environments. This may have been caused by very high transgene expression. No synergistic effects of mixing different GM lines with each other were detected. This might have been due to high transgene expression or the similarity between the lines regarding their resistance genes. We conclude that costs of resistance can be high for transgenic plants with constitutive transgene expression and that this can occur even in cases where the non-transgenic control lines are already relatively resistant, such as in our variety Frisal. Transgenic plants could only compete with conventional varieties in environments with high pathogen pressure. Furthermore, the large variability among the GM lines, which may be due to unpredictable transgene expression, suggests that case-by-case assessments are necessary to evaluate costs of resistance.
    Journal of Plant Ecology 04/2012; DOI:10.1093/jpe/rts013 · 2.28 Impact Factor