Transgenic Wheat and non-target impacts on Insect Herbivores and Food Webs


The project is part of the "Wheat Cluster" of the NFP59, which conducts field experiments with selected genetically modified (GM) spring wheat lines with enhanced resistance to powdery mildew (Pm3- and glucanase/chitinase-transgenic wheat). We investigate the effects of the GM wheat plants on insect herbivores and associated food webs. We hypothesize that alterations in the metabolism of GM wheat plants could affect the feeding behavior, growth, fitness and symbiotic associations of insect herbivores and their natural enemies (primary and secondary consumers). We investigate our hypothesis in the field, in an open glasshouse, in conventional glasshouses, and climate chambers.


Experiments in the field and the open glasshouse focus on naturally occurring herbivore populations and on the aphid–natural-enemy food web. We also investigate the composition of aphid honeydew in detail. Complementary studies in the glasshouse or climate chambers on individual species or multi-trophic species assemblages help to better understand the mechanisms that drive complex plant–insect interactions.

The results of our project will allow a better understanding of the complexe multi-trophic interactions among wheat plants, herbivores and their antagonists and the particular influence that the genetic transformation has on such interactions. In addition, our data will be used to provide guidance on how to assess non-target impacts of non-insecticidal transgenic plants and to standardize the open glasshouse system to assess the performance and potential environmental impact of annual transgenic plants prior to field release.


Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid (Project leader)
Simone von Burg (Ph.D.)

Co-operation partners

Dr. Jörg Romeis (Project leader), agroscope ART Reckenholz-Zurich


  • von Burg S., Müller CB., Romeis J. (2010). Transgenic disease-resistant wheat does not affect the clonal performance of the aphid Metopolophium dirhodum Walker. Basic and Applied Ecology, 11(3):257-263. DOI: 10.1016/j.baae.2010.02.003