Modern agricultural systems can benefit from the application of concepts and models from applied ecology. When understood, multitrophic interactions among plants, pests, diseases and their natural enemies can be exploited to increase crop production and reduce undesirable environmental impacts. Although the understanding of subterranean ecology is rudimentary compared to the perspective aboveground, technologies today vastly reduce traditional obstacles to studying cryptic communities. Here we emphasize advantages to integrating as much as possible the use of these methods in order to leverage the information gained from studying communities of soil organisms. PCR-based approaches to identify and quantify species (real time qPCR and next generation sequencing) greatly expand the ability to investigate food web interactions because there is less need for wide taxonomic expertise within research programs. Improved methods to capture and measure volatiles in the soil atmosphere in situ make it possible to detect and study chemical cues that are critical to communication across trophic levels. The application of SADIE to directly assess rather than infer spatial patterns in belowground agroecosystems has improved the ability to characterize relationships between organisms in space and time. We review selected methodology and use of these tools and describe some of the ways they were integrated to study soil food webs in Florida citrus orchards with the goal of developing new biocontrol approaches.
Keywords: PCR-based molecular methods, soil food webs, herbivore-induced plant volatiles, SADIE analysis, biological control
Citation: Campos-Herrera R, Ali JG, Diaz BM and Duncan LW (2013) Analyzing spatial patterns linked to the ecology of herbivores and their natural enemies in the soil. Front. Plant Sci. 4:378. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00378
Received: 20 May 2013; Accepted: 03 September 2013;
Published online: 30 September 2013.
Edited by:Sergio Rasmann, University of California Irvine, USA
Reviewed by:Rachel L. Vannette, Stanford University, USA
Copyright © 2013 Campos-Herrera, Ali, Diaz and Duncan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: R. Campos-Herrera, Departamento de Contaminación Ambiental, Instituto de Ciencias Agrarias, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Serrano 115 dpdo, Madrid 28004, Spain e-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org