Skip to main content

Elevated atmospheric CO2 changes defence allocation in wheat but herbivore resistance persists

Cite this dataset

Johnson, Scott et al. (2022). Elevated atmospheric CO2 changes defence allocation in wheat but herbivore resistance persists [Dataset]. Dryad.


Predicting how plants allocate to different anti-herbivore defences in response to elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations is important for understanding future patterns of crop susceptibility to herbivory. Theories of defence allocation, especially in the context of environmental change, largely overlook the role of silicon (Si), despite it being the major anti-herbivore defence in the Poaceae. We demonstrated that elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 (e[CO2]) promoted plant growth by 33% and caused wheat (Triticum aestivum) to switch from Si (–19%) to phenolic (+44%) defences. Despite the lower levels of Si under e[CO2], resistance to the global pest Helicoverpa armigera persisted; relative growth rates (RGR) were reduced by at least 33% on Si supplied plants, irrespective of CO2 levels. RGR was negatively correlated with leaf Si concentrations. Mandible wear was c. 30% higher when feeding on Si supplemented plants compared to those feeding on plants with no Si supply. We conclude that higher carbon availability under e[CO2] reduces silicification and causes wheat to increase concentrations of phenolics. However, Si supply, at all levels, suppressed the growth of H. armigera under both CO2 regimes, suggesting that shifts in defence allocation under future climate change may not compromise herbivore resistance in wheat.


The dataset was derived from a manipulative glasshouse experiment that varied Si supply to wheat grown under ambient and elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. It was analysed with several statstical analysis tests.

Usage notes

See accompanying README file that explains the dataset. Missing values in the dataset, arising mostly through sub-sampling of plants, are described in Fig. S1 of electronic supplementay material and indicated 'n/a' in the Excel file.


Australian Research Council, Award: FT170100342