Data_Sheet_3_Elicitor Application in Strawberry Results in Long-Term Increase of Plant Resilience Without Yield Loss.docx
For a first step integrating elicitor applications into the current IPM strategy increasing plant resilience against pests, we investigated repeated elicitor treatments in a strawberry everbearer nursery and cropping cycle under glass. During nursery methyl-jasmonate (MeJA), testing induction of defenses with plant bioassays was applied every 3 weeks. Thrips damage and reproduction by spider mites, whitefly and aphids were strongly reduced upon elicitor treatment. Subsequently, we applied MeJA every 3 weeks or based on scouting pests during a whole cropping cycle. Thrips leaf bioassays and LC-MS leaf metabolomics were applied to investigate the induction of defenses. Leaf damage by thrips was lower for both MeJA application schemes compared to the control except for the last weeks. While elicitor treatments after scouting also reduced damage, its effect did not last. Thrips damage decreased from vegetative to mature plants during the cropping cycle. At the end of the nursery phase, plants in the elicitor treatment were smaller. Surprisingly, growth during production was not affected by MeJA application, as were fruit yield and quality. LC-MS leaf metabolomics showed strong induction of vegetative plants decreasing during the maturation of plants toward the end of cultivation. Concurrently, no increase in the JA-inducible marker PPO was observed when measured toward the end of cultivation. Mostly flavonoid and phenolic glycosides known as plant defense compounds were induced upon MeJA application. While induced defense decreased with the maturation of plants, constitutive defense increased as measured in the leaf metabolome of control plants. Our data propose that young, relatively small plant stages lack constitutive defense necessitating an active JA defense response. As plants, mature constitutive defense metabolites seem to accumulate, providing a higher level of basal resistance. Our results have important implications for but are not limited to strawberry cultivation. We demonstrated that repeated elicitor application could be deployed as part of an integrated approach for sustainable crop protection by vertical integration with other management tactics and horizontal integration to control multiple pests concurrently. This approach forms a promising potential for long-term crop protection in greenhouses.