U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Belowground herbivore tolerance involves delayed overcompensatory root regrowth in maize

Christelle A.M. Robert, Stefanie Schirmer, Julie Barry, B. Wade French, Bruce E. Hibbard, Jonathan Gershenzon
Entomologia experimentalis et applicata 2015 v.157 no.1 pp. 113-120
Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, Zea mays, aerial parts, biomass, corn, herbivores, leaves, pest resistance, regrowth, root growth, roots
Plants can tolerate leaf‐herbivore attack through metabolic reconfigurations that allow for the rapid regrowth of lost leaves. Several studies indicate that root‐attacked plants can re‐allocate resources to the aboveground parts. However, the connection between tolerance and root regrowth remains poorly understood. We investigated the timing and extent of root regrowth of tolerant and susceptible lines of maize, Zea mays L. (Poaceae), attacked by the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), in the laboratory and the field. Infested tolerant maize plants produced more root biomass and even overcompensated for the lost roots, whereas this effect was absent in susceptible lines. Furthermore, the tolerant plants slowed growth of new roots in the greenhouse and in the field 4–8 days after infestation, whereas susceptible plants slowed growth of new roots only in the field and only after 12 days of infestation. The quick response of tolerant lines may have enabled them to escape root attack by starving the herbivores and by saving resources for regrowth after the attack had ceased. We conclude that both timing and the extent of regrowth may determine plant tolerance to root herbivory.