Analyzing plant defenses in nature

Daniel J. Ballhorn, Stefanie Kautz, Martin Heil, Adrian D. Hegeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


A broad range of chemical plant defenses against herbivores has been studied extensively under laboratory conditions. In many of these cases there is still little understanding of their relevance in nature. In natural systems, functional analyses of plant traits are often complicated by an extreme variability, which affects the interaction with higher trophic levels. Successful analyses require consideration of the numerous sources of variation that potentially affect the plant trait of interest. In our recent study on wild lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus L.) in South Mexico, we applied an integrative approach combining analyses for quantitative correlations of cyanogenic potential (HCNp; the maximum amount of cyanide that can be released from a given tissue) and herbivory in the field with subsequent feeding trials under controlled conditions. This approach allowed us to caus- ally explain the consequences of quantitative variation of HCNp on herbivore-plant interactions in nature and highlights the importance of combining data obtained in natural systems with analyses under controlled conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-745
Number of pages3
JournalPlant Signaling and Behavior
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2009


  • Cyanogenesis
  • Lima bean
  • Multiple defense syndromes
  • Natural systems
  • Optimal defense hypothesis (ODH)
  • Phaseolus lunatus L.
  • Plant defensive traits
  • Plant-herbivore interaction
  • Plant-pathogen interaction

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Analyzing plant defenses in nature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this