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Reducing Pests

Low Impact Pest Control: Screening Technology for Detecting Defensive Chemical Traits in Poplar


Poplars are susceptible to herbivory by both insects and mammals. The leaves have natural defensive compounds such as tannins and phenolic glygosides that can affect the feeding behavior of herbivores.

Our group seeks to determine which poplar clones have naturally high levels of defensive compounds. In order to do so, we are developing clone screening methodology with calibrations of near infrared (NIR) spectroscopic technology.


In order to select superior poplar genotypes for bioenergy feedstock, NIR spectroscopic technology will aid in evaluating varieties for defensive phytochemicals.


We have characterized defensive phytochemicals in 147 clones in 5 poplar species and 2 hybrid taxa. In leaf and bark tissue, we have developed universal NIR calibrations for soluble condensed tannins and select phenolic glycosides.

In summer 2013, we tested the impact of varying levels of these defensive compounds in deer and vole feeding preference studies.

A deer nibbling on a poplar tree.
Deer feeding preferences for poplars are being tested at WSU’s wild ungulate facility.