Plant toxic biochemicals play an important role in defense against natural enemies and often are toxic to humans and livestock. Hyperspectral reflectance is an established method for primary chemical detection and could be further used to determine plant toxicity in the field. In order to make a first step for pyrrolizidine alkaloids detection (toxic defense compound against mammals and many insects) we studied how such spectral data can estimate plant defense chemistry under controlled conditions. In a greenhouse, we grew three related plant species that defend against generalist herbivores through pyrrolizidine alkaloids: Jacobaea vulgaris, Jacobaea erucifolia and Senecio inaequidens, and analyzed the relation between spectral measurements and chemical concentrations using multivariate statistics. Nutrient addition enhanced tertiary-amine pyrrolizidine alkaloids contents of J. vulgaris and J. erucifolia and decreased N-oxide contents in S. inaequidens and J. vulgaris. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids could be predicted with a moderate accuracy. Pyrrolizidine alkaloid forms tertiary-amines and epoxides were predicted with 63% and 56% of the variation explained, respectively. The most relevant spectral regions selected for prediction were associated with electron transitions and CH, OH, and NH bonds in the 1530 and 2100 nm regions. Given the relatively low concentration in pyrrolizidine alkaloids concentration (in the order of mg g−1) and resultant predictions, it is promising that pyrrolizidine alkaloids interact with incident light. Further studies should be considered to determine if such a non-destructive method may predict changes in PA concentration in relation to plant natural enemies. Spectroscopy may be used to study plant defenses in intact plant tissues, and may provide managers of toxic plants, food industry and multitrophic-interaction researchers with faster and larger monitoring possibilities
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Volume80
DOI
StatePublished - 2013

    Research areas

  • international

ID: 146021