Levels of plant secondary metabolites are not static and often change in relation to plant ontogeny. They also respond to abiotic and biotic changes in the environment, e.g., they often increase in response to biotic stress, such as herbivory. In contrast with short-lived annual plant species, especially those with growing periods of less than 2–3 months, investment in defensive compounds of vegetative tissues in biennial and perennial species may also vary over the course of an entire growing season. In garden experiments, we investigated the dynamics of secondary metabolites, i.e. glucosinolates (GSLs) in the perennial wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea), which was grown from seeds originating from three populations that differ in GSL chemistry. We compared temporal long-term dynamics of GSLs over the course of two growing seasons and short-term dynamics in response to herbivory by Pieris rapae caterpillars in a more controlled greenhouse experiment. Long-term dynamics differed for aliphatic GSLs (gradual increase from May to December) and indole GSLs (rapid increase until mid-summer after which concentrations decreased or stabilized). In spring, GSL levels in new shoots were similar to those found in the previous year. Short-term dynamics in response to herbivory primarily affected indole GSLs, which increased during the 2-week feeding period by P. rapae. Herbivore-induced changes in the concentrations of aliphatic GSLs were population-specific and their concentrations were found to increase in primarily one population only. We discuss our results considering the biology and ecology of wild cabbage.
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