Nitrogen availability and defense of tomato against two-spotted spider mite

Hoffland, E.; Dicke, M.; Tintelen, W. van; Dijkman, H.; Beusichem, M.L. van


The aim of this work was to study how nitrogen availability affects within-plant allocation to growth and secondary metabolites and how this allocation affects host selection by herbivores. Tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) were grown at six levels of nitrogen availability. When nitrogen availability increased, plant relative growth rate increased, but tissue carbon/nitrogen ratio in the second oldest true leaf and allocation to large glandular trichomes (type VI) as well as to the defense compounds rutin and chlorogenic acid decreased. Leaf protein concentration increased. Two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) females responded significantly to these changes: in dual choice tests they preferred leaf disks from plants grown at high nitrogen availability, with a low C/N ratio. This preference persisted in an olfactometer in which the mites were offered only the odors released by leaves with damaged trichomes. We conclude that in a tomato leaf increased nitrogen availability leads to decreased allocation to defenses, and that repellent volatiles released by trichomes play a key role in affecting leaf selection by two-spotted spider mite females.