Defensive role of allelopathic secondary compounds in plants I: testing two independent general hypotheses
This study tests two general and independent hypotheses with the basic assumption that phytoactive secondary compounds produced by plants evolved primarily as plant defences against competitor plant species. The first hypothesis is that the production and main way of release of phytoactive compounds reflect an adaptive response to climatic conditions. Thus, higher phytoactivity by volatile compounds prevails in plants of hot, dry environments, whereas higher phytoactivity by water-soluble compounds is preponderant in plants from wetter environments. The second hypothesis is that synergy between plant phytoactive compounds is widespread, due to the resulting higher energy efficiency and economy of resources. The first hypothesis was tested on germination and early growth of cucumber treated with either water extracts or volatiles from leaves or vegetative shoot tops of four Mediterranean-type shrubs. The second hypothesis was tested on germination of subterranean clover treated with either water extracts of leaves or vegetative shoot tops of one tree and of three Mediterranean-type shrubs or with each of the three fractions obtained from water extracts. Our data do not support either hypotheses. We found no evidence for higher phytoactivity in volatile compounds released by plants that thrive in hot, dry Mediterranean-type environments. We also found no evidence for the predominance of synergy among the constituents of fractions. To the contrary, we found either antagonism or no interaction of effects
among allelopathic compounds.