© Jeffrey Chase

Get tough with underground bugs: siliceous conditions benefit maize root defenses against rootivorous insects


2017 |       Funded by:




There are more and more evidence showing that plants can accumulate silicon in their tissues to fight back herbivorous insects. In this project, we aim at characterizing how maize is using this element to boost its productivity, mitigate abiotic stress such a drought, combat root herbivory, and attract natural enemies of rootivorous insects. The evolution of resistance to conventional management technics, observed in several insect species, triggers the need to novel and sustainable strategies to control rootivorous insects. We believe that understanding plants natural tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress is a very potent research avenue for the development of sustainable pest management and productive crop production.


Agricultural Entomology

Further reads


Frew, A., Powell, J. R., Hiltpold, I., Allsopp, P. G., Sallam, N. and Johnson, S. N. (2017). "Host plant colonisation by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi stimulates immune function whereas high root silicon concentrations diminish growth in a soil-dwelling herbivore." Soil Biology and Biochemistry 112: 117-126.


Frew, A., Powell, J. R., Sallam, N., Allsopp, P. G. and Johnson, S. N. (2016). "Trade-Offs between Silicon and Phenolic Defenses may Explain Enhanced Performance of Root Herbivores on Phenolic-Rich Plants." Journal of Chemical Ecology 42: 768-771.


Massey, F. P. and Hartley, S. E. (2009). "Physical defences wear you down: Progressive and irreversible impacts of silica on insect herbivores." Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 281-291.


Moore, B. D. and Johnson, S. N. (2017). "Get Tough, Get Toxic, or Get a Bodyguard: Identifying Candidate Traits Conferring Belowground Resistance to Herbivores in Grasses." Frontiers in Plant Science 7