Project properties

Title <b> Field experiment: </b> how does insect herbivory affect pollen production, quality and paternal fitness in <i> Brassica rapa </i>?
Group Entomology, Laboratory of
Project type thesis
Credits 24-36
Supervisor(s) Hanneke Suijkerbuijk, Erik Poelman
Examiner(s) Marcel Dicke
Contact info
Begin date 2022/05/09
End date 2022/11/25
Description When we think of plant reproduction and plant fitness, we often think of seeds. However, for a bisexual plant such as <i> Brassica rapa </i> this is only half of its reproductive pathway. It’s often referred to as maternal or female fitness. The second way in which it passes its genes to the next generation is through pollen. This paternal fitness is studied way less than the maternal pathway, but to get a complete idea of a plants fitness and reproduction it is essential information. The paternal success of a plant is tightly linked to pollinators; an outcrossing species such as <i> B. rapa </i> is completely dependent on pollinators to receive as well as spread pollen. In addition, plants have to balance their reproductive efforts with defending themselves to insect herbivores in the field. How do they do this? Do they shift their resource investments between these two pathways? Do they still manage to attract pollinators? This will be studied this summer in a large field trial. Within the trial, there is room for 2-3 MSc students to participate and contribute within the project.

This project will focus on the effects of insect herbivory on pollen production, quality and competitiveness. Compared to seeds, pollen is relatively cheap to produce in terms of the resources it requires. Another advantage is that spreading pollen quickly can assure reproduction - when under attack it is riskier to start producing seeds if it is uncertain whether the plant will survive the attack. It is therefore not unthinkable that pollen production will be affected by insect herbivory. Quality traits such as germination rate might also be affected. Flowers receive heterogenous batches of pollen, which compete inside the pistil; pollen has to germinate quickly and pollen tubes have to grow toward the ovules before the competitors do. How does herbivory affect the amount and quality of pollen? And how does it affect siring success? Do post-pollination processes such as self-incompatibility play a role?

The field will be planted in May. It is possible to start the thesis in period 6 or right after that at the beginning of July. If you’re interested or want to know more, send an email to
Used skills Field work, herbivore-plant interactions, plant stress response, lab work, microscopy
Requirements For doing a MSc-thesis or internship at Entomology, the following requirements apply: ENT-30806 + a second ENT-course (preferably ENT-30306 or ENT-50806 or ENT-53806). As an alternative for the second ENT-course, PHP-30806 or BHE-30306 can be selected.
Note: these requirements do not apply for MBI students; MBI students should check the requirements for doing an ENT MSc-thesis or internship in the study programme of their specialisation.