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Crop domestication alters floral reward chemistry with potential consequences for pollinator Health

Crop domestication alters floral reward chemistry with potential consequences for pollinator Health

Egan, Paul A., Adler, Lynn S., Irwin, Rebecca E., Farrell, Iain W., Palmer-Young, Evan C. and Stevenson, Philip C. ORCID: 0000-0002-0736-3619 (2018) Crop domestication alters floral reward chemistry with potential consequences for pollinator Health. Frontiers in Plant Science, 9:1357. ISSN 1664-462X (Online) (doi:

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Crop domestication can lead to weakened expression of plant defences, with repercussions for herbivore and pathogen susceptibility. However, little is known about how domestication alters traits that mediate other important ecological interactions in crops, such as pollination. Secondary metabolites, which underpin many defence responses in plants, also occur widely in nectar and pollen and influence plant-pollinator interactions. Thus, domestication may also affect secondary compounds in floral rewards, with potential consequences for pollinators. To test this hypothesis, we chemically analysed nectar and pollen from wild and cultivated plants of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). Our results indicated that domestication has significantly altered the chemical composition of V. corymbosum nectar and pollen, and reduced pollen chemical diversity in cultivated plants. Of 20 plant metabolites identified in floral rewards, 13 differed significantly between wild and cultivated plants, with a majority showing positive associations with wild compared to cultivated plants. These included the amino acid phenylalanine (4.5 times higher in wild nectar, 11 times higher in wild pollen), a known bee phagostimulant and essential nutrient; and the antimicrobial caffeic acid ester 4-O-caffeoylshikimic acid (two times higher in wild nectar). We assessed the possible biological relevance of variation in caffeic acid esters in bioassays, using the commercially available 3-O-caffeoylquinic acid. This compound reduced Bombus impatiens infection by a prominent gut pathogen (Crithidia) atconcentrations that these esters occur in wild but not cultivated plants, suggesting that domestication may influence floral traits with consequences for bee health. Appreciable levels of genetic variation and heritability were found for most floral reward chemical traits, indicating good potential for selective breeding. Our study provides the first assessment of plant domestication effects on floral reward chemistry and its potential repercussions for pollinator health. Given the central importance of pollinators for agriculture, we discuss the need to extend such investigations to pollinator-dependant crops more generally and elaborate on future research directions to ascertain wider trends, consequences for pollinators, mechanisms, and breeding solutions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2018 Egan, Adler, Irwin, Farrell, Palmer-Young and Stevenson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Domestication, Floral rewards, Vaccinium, pollinator-pathogen interactions, Bombus impatiens, Pollinator health, phytochemicals, crop evolution
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Chemical Ecology Research Group
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2019 20:59

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