Advances and challenges in the identification of volatiles that mediate interactions among plants and arthropods
The relatively new research field of Chemical Ecology has, over the last two decades, revealed an important role of plant-produced volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in mediating interactions between plants and other organisms. Of particular interest are the volatile blends that plants actively emit in response to herbivore damage. Various efforts are underway to pinpoint the bioactive compounds in these complex blends, but this has proven to be exceedingly difficult. Here we give a short overview on the role of herbivore-induced plant volatiles in interactions between plants and other organisms and we review methods that are currently employed to collect and identify key volatile compounds mediating these interactions. Our perspective on future directions of this fascinating research field places special emphasis on the need for an interdisciplinary approach. Joint efforts by chemists and biologists should not only facilitate the elucidation of crucial compounds, but can also be expected to lead to an exploitation of this knowledge, whereby ecological interactions may be chemically manipulated in order to protect crops and the environment.