The combined impacts of wheat spatial position and phenology on cereal aphid abundance

Zhaniya S. Batyrshina, Alon Cna’ani, Tamir Rozenberg, Merav Seifan, Vered Tzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Wheat is a staple crop that suffers from massive yield losses caused by cereal aphids. Many factors can determine the abundance of cereal aphids and the damage they cause to plants; among them are the plant’s genetic background, as well as environmental conditions such as spatial position within the plot, the composition and the distance from neighboring vegetation. Although the effects of these factors have been under scrutiny for many years, the combined effect of both factors on aphid populations is not fully understood. The goal of this study was to examine the collective impact of genotype and environment on wheat phenology (developmental stages), chemical diversity (metabolites), and insect susceptibility, as manifested by cereal aphid abundance. Methods: To determine the influence of plant genotype on the metrics mentioned above, we measured the phenology, chemical profile, and aphid abundance of four wheat genotypes, including the tetraploid wild emmer (Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccoides cv. Zavitan), tetraploid durum (Triticum turgidum ssp. durum cv. Svevo), and two hexaploid spring bread (Triticum aestivum), ‘Rotem’ and ‘Chinese Spring’. These genotypes are referred to as “focal” plants. To evaluate the impact of the environment, we scored the distance of each focal plant (spatial position) from two neighboring vegetation types: (i) natural resource and (ii) monoculture wheat resource. Results: The results demonstrated that the wild emmer wheat was the most aphid-resistant, while the bread wheat Rotem was most aphid-susceptible. Aphids were more abundant in plants that matured early. The spatial position analysis demonstrated that aphids were more abundant in focal plants located closer to the margin monoculture wheat resource rather than to the natural resource, suggesting a resource concentration effect. The analysis of metabolic diversity showed that the levels of three specialized metabolites from the flavonoid class, differed between the wheat genotypes and some minor changes in central metabolites were shown as well. Altogether, these results demonstrate a combined effect of genetic background and spatial position on wheat phenology and aphid abundance on plants. This exposes the potential role of the marginal vegetation environment in shaping the insect population of desirable crops. These findings highlight the importance of maintaining plant intra-specific variation in the agriculture system because of its potential applications in reducing pest density.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9142
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Agroecosystem
  • Aphid infestation
  • Flavonoid
  • Insect
  • Neighboring resources
  • Pest
  • Plant developmental stages
  • Plant diversity
  • Specialized metabolites
  • Wheat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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