The role of monoterpenes in resistance of Douglas fir to western spruce budworm defoliation

Zhong Chen, Thomas E. Kolb, Karen M. Clancy

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37 Scopus citations


We conducted defoliation experiments with 7- to 8-year-old clones of Douglas fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco var. glauca] to assess the role of monoterpenes as a resistance mechanism to western spruce budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis Freeman) defoliation. The grafted clones were derived from mature trees that showed resistance or susceptibility to budworm defoliation in the forest. All clones were exposed to either budworm defoliation or nondefoliation treatments in 1998 and 1999 under greenhouse conditions. We found that the total concentration of monoterpenes in current-year foliage varied greatly between two consecutive years in clones in the greenhouse and in their corresponding mature trees in the forest. Fractional composition of different monoterpenes was similar between different years and between clones and mature trees, indicating genetic control of this trait. Two different defoliation experiments were conducted to assess the importance of budburst phenology as a factor determining host plant resistance. In the 1998 experiment, budworm feeding was matched to the budburst of each individual plant. Monoterpene concentration was high in 1998, and budworm potential fitness was greater on clones from the resistant mature trees that had lower concentrations of total monoterpenes. In the 1999 experiment, budworm feeding was matched to budburst of the whole population of plants in order to mimic conditions similar to insects feeding on trees in the field. The concentration of monoterpenes was low in 1999, and budworm fitness was not related to monoterpenes. Total monoterpene concentration was negatively related to foliar nitrogen concentration, suggesting that C/N balance may affect monoterpene synthesis in needles. However, tree growth was not related to total monoterpene concentration. We concluded that expression of differences in budworm resistance among Douglas fir genotypes might be caused by interactions among multiple resistance mechanisms such as needle monoterpenes and tree budburst phenology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)897-920
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


  • Budburst phenology
  • Choristoneura occidentalis
  • Herbivory
  • Monoterpenes
  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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