Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 915–921 | Cite as

Concentrations of sunflower phenolics appear insufficient to explain resistance to floret- and seed-feeding caterpillars

  • Jarrad R. PrasifkaEmail author
  • Christopher M. Wallis
Original Paper


Cultivated sunflowers, Helianthus annuus L., show significant variation in susceptibility to insect pests, though specific mechanisms of resistance are not clear. Plant secondary compounds, including phenolics, are often associated with resistance to insects and pathogens. Because several phenolics are present in sunflower florets, wild sunflowers and cultivated inbred lines were sampled to document natural variation in free phenolics and evaluate their potential effects on floret-feeding pests. Four di-O-caffeoylquinic acid isomers were the largest contributors to total phenolic content of disc florets. When identified phenolics were combined with unidentified flavonoid glycosides, total phenolic concentration in inbred lines varied fourfold (≈ 18–72 mg/g), and was significantly greater than that in wild sunflowers. Two lab assays with 50 or 100 mg/g chlorogenic acid showed inconsistent reductions in mass or increases in mortality of sunflower moth (Homoeosoma electellum Hulst) larvae after 9 days, and tests using floret tissue with low or high levels of total phenolics did not show an effect of tissue type on H. electellum development. Tests for correlation between total phenolics and field data on susceptibility of sunflowers to another floret-feeding pest, banded sunflower moth (Cochylis hospes Walsingham), did not show any significant association. Cumulatively, results suggest there may be minor effects of phenolic compounds on floret-feeding insects, but these alone are insufficient for plant defense. However, variation in concentration of phenolic compounds may remain valuable, both as a component of plant defense and a source of oxidative stability in sunflower oil.


Sunflower Chlorogenic acid Host plant resistance Di-O-caffeoylquinic acid Sunflower moth 



We appreciate help from Tandi Thompson in sample preparation and Jamie Miller-Dunbar in collecting data from tests of larval development.

Supplementary material

11829_2019_9706_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (73 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 72 kb)
11829_2019_9706_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (85 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 85 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA-ARS, Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research CenterFargoUSA
  2. 2.Crop Diseases, Pests and Genetics Research UnitUSDA-ARS, San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences CenterParlierUSA

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