An imminent food crisis reinforces the need for novel strategies to increase crop yields worldwide. Effective control of pest insects should be part of such strategies, preferentially with reduced negative impact on the environment and optimal protection and utilization of existing biodiversity. Enhancing the presence and efficacy of native biological control agents could be one such strategy. Plant strengthener is a generic term for several commercially available compounds or mixtures of compounds that can be applied to cultivated plants in order to ‘boost their vigour, resilience and performance’. Studies into the consequences of boosting plant resistance against pests and diseases on plant volatiles have found a surprising and dramatic increase in the plants' attractiveness to parasitic wasps. Here, we summarize the results from these studies and present new results from assays that illustrate the great potential of two commercially available resistance elicitors. We argue that plant strengtheners may currently be the best option to enhance the attractiveness of cultivated plants to biological control agents. Other options, such as the genetic manipulation of the release of specific volatiles may offer future solutions, but in most systems, we still miss fundamental knowledge on which key attractants should be targeted for this approach.
One contribution of 16 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap’.
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