Plant-soil feedback effects on plant quality and performance of an aboveground herbivore interact with fertilisation

M. Kos*, A. Maarten, M.A.B. Tuijl, J. de Roo, P.P.J. Mulder, T.M. Bezemer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Plant–soil feedback (PSF) effects on plant performance can be influenced by the availability of nutrients in the soil. Recent studies have shown that PSF effects can also change aboveground plant–insect interactions via soil-mediated changes in plant quality, but whether this is influenced by soil nutrient availability is unknown. We examined how fertilisation influences PSF effects on aboveground plant-aphid interactions in ragwort Jacobaea vulgaris. We grew J. vulgaris in soil conditioned by conspecific plants and in unconditioned soil at two levels of fertilisation and measured soil fungal communities, plant biomass, concentrations of primary (amino acids) and secondary (pyrrolizidine alkaloids; PAs) metabolites in phloem exudates, performance of the specialist aphid Aphis jacobaeae and sequestration of PAs by the aphid. We observed a strong interaction between soil conditioning and fertilisation on amino acid and PA concentrations in phloem exudates of J. vulgaris and on aphid performance, with opposite effects of soil conditioning at the two fertilisation levels. Plant biomass was reduced by soil conditioning and increased by fertilisation. Aphids contained high PA concentrations, converted N-oxides into tertiary amines and preferentially sequestered certain PA compounds, but PA sequestration was not affected by any of the treatments. We conclude that effects of PSF and fertilisation on plant chemistry and aphid performance are interdependent. Our study highlights the need to consider the importance of abiotic soil conditions on the outcome of PSF effects on aboveground plant–insect interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)658-667
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • below-ground herbivory
  • pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • senecio-jacobaea
  • tyria-jacobaeae
  • multitrophic interactions
  • nitrate fertilization
  • community composition
  • insect community
  • aphid
  • pathogens


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