Aphid-parasitoid community structure on genetically modified wheat
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.