Root-emitted volatile organic compounds: can they mediate belowground plant-plant interactions?

Research paper by Benjamin M. Delory, Pierre Delaplace, Marie-Laure Fauconnier, Patrick du Jardin

Indexed on: 12 Feb '16Published on: 12 Feb '16Published in: Plant and soil


Aboveground, plants release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that act as chemical signals between neighbouring plants. It is now well documented that VOCs emitted by the roots in the plant rhizosphere also play important ecological roles in the soil ecosystem, notably in plant defence because they are involved in interactions between plants, phytophagous pests and organisms of the third trophic level. The roles played by root-emitted VOCs in between- and within-plant signalling, however, are still poorly documented in the scientific literature.Given that (1) plants release volatile cues mediating plant-plant interactions aboveground, (2) roots can detect the chemical signals originating from their neighbours, and (3) roots release VOCs involved in biotic interactions belowground, the aim of this paper is to discuss the roles of VOCs in between- and within-plant signalling belowground. We also highlight the technical challenges associated with the analysis of root-emitted VOCs and the design of experiments targeting volatile-mediated root-root interactions.We conclude that root-root interactions mediated by volatile cues deserve more research attention and that both the analytical tools and methods developed to study the ecological roles played by VOCs in interplant signalling aboveground can be adapted to focus on the roles played by root-emitted VOCs in between- and within-plant signalling.