Tri-Trophic Interactions in Wild and Domesticated Sunflower
Juli Carrillo, Assistant Professor, Plant-Insect Ecology Evolution Lab, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Plant-Insect Ecology Evolution Lab (PI)
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant
About the Project
People love sunflowers, and so do insects. Sunflowers produce special nectar droplets that attract beneficial insects that eat pests – these beneficial bugs are plant bodyguards, and include ants, wasps, and spiders. But sometimes these “bodyguards” bring unwanted guests to the party, such as aphids and treehoppers. The project measures if this is more likely in crop sunflowers, or in their hardier wild relatives.
Crop domestication has changed how plants interact with their environment. This project examines indirect defenses (those involving higher trophic levels) in cultivated sunflower and its wild relatives. Plant traits and insect abundance across different sunflower types will be measured. Although there is clear evidence that traits have changed in domesticated crops compared to their wild relatives, it is unknown how these changes effects trophic levels across the agroecosystem. This will be the first examination of extrafloral nectar production across wild/domesticated sunflower