Hemicellulose is an important leaf-feeding resistance factor in corn to the fall armyworm

Paul A. Hedin, Frank M. Davis, W. Paul Williams, Rickey P. Hicks, Thomas H. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The fall armyworm, Spodoptera fragiperda (J.E. Smith), (FAW) is a major pest of corn, Zea mays L., in the southeastern United States. The damage to pretassel corn is caused by larvae feeding primarily on immature inner whorls. In this study, resistant lines were found to contain more crude fiber in whorls, mostly hemicellulose and cellulose. While hemicellulose, chiefly an arabinoxylan, was higher in resistant (R) lines than in susceptible (S) lines, the distribution of constituent neutral sugars was very similar in the lines. Both lines also contained p-coumaric and ferulic acids. These phenolic acids are known to occur both in the free state and in the cell wall as complexes bound by ester linkages to the arabinose moiety of the arabinoxylan. 13C NMR data showed that the intensity of the carbonyl carbon (184 ppm) in resistant hemicellulose was stronger, indicating a greater degree of cross-linking. Thus, resistant hemicellulose is both structurally different from susceptible hemicellulose and present in greater quantities. In two of three laboratory dietary tests, FAW larval weight gains were significantly higher on diets with (S) hemicellulose incorporated at the same level as (R) hemicellulose. Therefore, resistance tot he FAW appears to be correlated with both a greater amount and a higher degree of cross-linking of the hemicellulose of (R) lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1655-1668
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


  • Corn
  • fall armywork
  • feeding resistance
  • hemicellulose
  • Lepidoptera
  • Spodoptera fragiperda (J.E. Smith)
  • Zea mays (L.)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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