Roots under attack: Contrasting plant responses to below- and aboveground insect herbivory

Scott N. Johnson*, Matthias Erb, Susan E. Hartley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The distinctive ecology of root herbivores, the complexity and diversity of root-microbe interactions, and the physical nature of the soil matrix mean that plant responses to root herbivory extrapolate poorly from our understanding of responses to aboveground herbivores. For example, root attack induces different changes in phytohormones to those in damaged leaves, including a lower but more potent burst of jasmonates in several plant species. Root secondary metabolite responses also differ markedly, although patterns between roots and shoots are harder to discern. Root defences must therefore be investigated in their own ecophysiological and evolutionary context, specifically one which incorporates root microbial symbionts and antagonists, if we are to better understand the battle between plants and their hidden herbivores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-418
Number of pages6
JournalThe New phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Defensive responses
  • Folivores
  • Herbivores
  • Photoassimilates
  • Phytohormones
  • Root feeding
  • Secondary metabolites

Cite this