New frontiers in belowground ecology for plant protection from root-feeding insects

SN Johnson, C Benefer, A Frew, BS Griffiths, S Hartley, A Karley, S Rasmann, M Schumann, I Sonnemann, C Robert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Herbivorous insect pests living in the soil represent a significant challenge to food security given their persistence, the acute damage they cause to plants and the difficulties associated with managing their populations. Ecological research effort into rhizosphere interactions has increased dramatically in the last decade and we are beginning to understand, in particular, the ecology of how plants defend themselves against soil-dwelling pests. In this review, we synthesise information about four key ecological mechanisms occurring in the rhizosphere or surrounding soil that confer plant protection against root herbivores. We focus on root tolerance, root resistance via direct physical and chemical defences, particularly via acquisition of siliconbased plant defences, integration of plant mutualists (microbes and entomopathogenic nematodes, EPNs) and the influence of soil history and feedbacks. Their suitability as management tools, current limitations for their application, and the opportunities for development are evaluated. We identify opportunities for synergy between these aspects of rhizosphere ecology, such as mycorrhizal fungi negatively affecting pests at the root-interface but also increasing plant uptake of silicon, which is also known to reduce herbivory. Finally, we set out research priorities for developing potential novel management strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96 - 107
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Early online date9 Aug 2016
Publication statusFirst published - 9 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note



  • Belowground herbivores
  • Ecological applications
  • Rhizosphere
  • Root herbivory
  • Root-feeding insects
  • Soils


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