Induced plant defences in biological control of arthropod pests: a double-edged sword

Maria L. Pappas*, Colette Broekgaarden, George D. Broufas, Merijn R. Kant, Gerben J. Messelink, Anke Steppuhn, Felix Wäckers, Nicole M. Van Dam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Biological control is an important ecosystem service delivered by natural enemies. Together with breeding for plant defence, it constitutes one of the most promising alternatives to pesticides for controlling herbivores in sustainable crop production. Especially induced plant defences may be promising targets in plant breeding for resistance against arthropod pests. Because they are activated upon herbivore damage, costs are only incurred when defence is needed. Moreover, they can be more specific than constitutive defences. Nevertheless, inducible defence traits that are harming plant pest organisms may interfere with biological control agents, such as predators and parasitoids. Despite the vast fundamental knowledge on plant defence mechanisms and their effects on natural enemies, our understanding of the feasibility of combining biological control with induced plant defence in practice is relatively poor. In this review, we focus on arthropod pest control and present the most important features of biological control with natural enemies and of induced plant defence. Furthermore, we show potential synergies and conflicts among them and, finally, identify gaps and list opportunities for their combined use in crop protection. We suggest that breeders should focus on inducible resistance traits that are compatible with the natural enemies of arthropod pests, specifically traits that help communities of natural enemies to build up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1780-1788
Number of pages9
JournalPest Management Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • direct defence
  • indirect defence
  • integrated pest management
  • plant resistance
  • sustainable agriculture


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