Jasmonic Acid Treatment and Mammalian Herbivory Differentially affect Chemical Defenses and Growth of Wild Mustard (Brassica kaber)

Document Type


Publication Date



Jasmonic acid (JA) is a wound-related hormone found in most plants that, when applied exogenously, can induce increases in levels of chemical defenses in patterns similar to those induced by mechanical damage or insect feeding. Relative to responses to insect and pathogen attack, chemical responses of herbaceous plants to mammalian herbivore attack have been little studied. In a field experiment, we compared the effects of JA treatment and naturally occurring mammalian herbivory on the expression of trypsin inhibitors, glucosinolates, peroxidase activity and growth of wild mustard (Brassica kaber). Exogenous JA significantly increased trypsin inhibitor activity and glucosinolate concentration, and moderately increased peroxidase activity in the eighth true leaves of five-week-old plants, relative to untreated controls. In contrast, levels of these chemical defenses in the eighth true leaves or in regrowth foliage of plants that had ∼80% of their leaf area removed by groundhogs (Marmota monax) did not differ from that in undamaged and untreated controls. Although exogenous JA significantly elevated levels of chemical defenses, it did not affect height of plants through the season and only slightly reduced time to first flower. Groundhog herbivory significantly reduced height and delayed or abolished flowering, but these effects were not substantial unless coupled with apical meristem removal. We hypothesize that the lack of effect of groundhog herbivory on chemical defenses may be due in part to the speed and pattern of leaf area removal by groundhogs, or physiological constraints caused by leaf area loss. Despite having no effect on chemical defense production, leaf area loss by groundhogs was more costly to growth and fitness than the effects of JA application in this study, but only substantially so if coupled with apical meristem removal. We suggest that in general, costs of defense production in plants are likely to be minimal when compared to the risk of losing large amounts of leaf area or primary meristematic tissue. Thus, if they are effective at deterring herbivory, the benefits of inducible defense production likely outweigh the costs in most cases.



Find in your library

Off-Campus WSU Users