The stem borer Sesamia nonagrioides (Lefèbvre) is the most important insect pest of maize, Zea mays L., in northwestern Spain. Among the metabolites present in maize, phenolic compounds could play an important role in resistance. The objective of this work was to determine whether a relationship between phenols and the amount of resistance exists. Amounts of free phenolic compounds in the pith of 13 inbred maize lines that differ in resistance were measured. The phenolic compounds identified were p-coumaric acid, cafeic acid, ferulic acid, vanillic acid, syringic acid, chorogenic acid, sinapic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, and vanillin. The amount of free p-coumaric acid was correlated with the resistance level. Higher quantities of p-coumaric in the pith could contribute to general resistance to stem borer attack. Jointly with ferulic acid, p-coumaric could provide resistance mechanisms through cell wall fortification and lignification. The other compounds showed no or an unclear relationship with resistance. The vanillic acid showed a decreased tendency after silking, when maize is most attractive for S. nonagrioides, suggesting this acid could act as a chemoattractant for S. nonagrioides larvae or adults. Future studies that focus on these phenolic compounds could be useful in understanding S. nonagrioides resistance.
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Vol. 98 • No. 4