When plants are attacked by insects, volatile chemical signals can be released, not only from the damaged parts, but also systemically from other parts of the plant and this continues after cessation of feeding by the insect. These signals are perceived by olfactory sensory mechanisms in both the herbivorous insects and their parasites. Molecular structures involved can be characterized by means of electrophysiological assays, using the insect sensory system linked to chemical analysis. Evidence is mounting that such signals can also affect neighbouring intact plants, which initiate defence by the induction of further signalling systems, such as those that increase parasitoid foraging. Furthermore, insect electrophysiology can be used in the identification of plant compounds having effects on the plants themselves. It has been found recently that certain plants can release stress signals even when undamaged, and that these can cause defence responses in intact plants. These discoveries provide the basis for new crop protection strategies, that are either delivered by genetic modification of plants or by conventionally produced plants to which the signal is externally applied. Delivery can also be made by means of mixed seed strategies in which the provoking and recipient plants are grown together. Related signalling discoveries within the rhizosphere seem set to extend these approaches into new ways of controlling weeds, by exploiting the elusive potential of allelopathy, but through signalling rather than by direct physiological effects.

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