-- this section is under revision --

Primary circuit

In the EPG technique, an aphid (or another insect with piercing mouthparts) and a plant are made part of an electrical circuit by inserting a wire into the soil of a potted plant, and attaching a very thin wire to the insect. The circuit also incorporates an electrical resistor (Ri) and a voltage source (V), as illustrated below. As soon as the aphid stylets penetrate the plant, the circuit is completed and a fluctuating voltage, called the 'EPG signal', occurs at the measuring point which is then amplified and recorded on a computer hard disk. The voltage fluctuations appear in a number of distinct patters with respect to amplitude, frequency, and voltage level, which are referred to as 'EPG waveforms'. For a number of insects thesewaveforms have been correlated experimentally with the insect´s stylet penetration (probing) activities and stylet tip positions in the plant tissues and cells.

Fig. 1. The primary EPG circuit


Electrical origin of the signal

The fluctuating voltages oringinate from two different sources in the insect-plant combination:  1) fluctuating electrical resistance (R) and 2) fluctuating 'generated' voltages, called electromotive force (emf). The signal components of the sources are referred to as the R-components and emf-components, respectively. The two components concurrently occur and are superimposed at the measuring point in the circuit. The R-components are mainly due to activities of the valves in the food and salivary stylet canals and resistance changes at the stylet tips inside the plant. The emf-components originate mainly from 'membrane potentials' of plant cells when punctured by the stylets and from 'streaming potentials' caused by the fluid movements in the two capillary stylet canals. Muscle and neural potentials in the insect do to contribute to the EPG signal. Both, R- and emf-components include important biological information on the insect's activities and the stylet tip positions in the plant.

EPG systems

The first EPG system was introduced by McLean and Kinsey (1964) using an alternating current (60Hz AC) as a voltage source, the voltage amplitude of which was modulated by resistance fluctuations in the insect, similar to signal processing in AM radio circuits. However, this design appeared to be not sensitive to the emf-components in the primary circuit. They were lost in the´AC-EPG system´ and therefore, it is better to indicate it as the 'R-EPG system'. In the later 'DC-EPG system' (Tjallingii, 1978, 1088) the voltage source was replaced by a direct current (DC) source. The input resistor (Fig. 1, Ri) has a value of 109 Ohm (1 GΩ) is selected because the insect's resistance fluctuates around the same resistance value as an average, a ratio of about 1:1 thus. This results in a system sensitivity to changes in resistance as well as to emf changes of the insect and plant in the measuring circuit and the EPG signal. The DC-EPG system is the regular system now (Giga-8d, Products page) and since it records both signal components, R and emf, it is better to indicate this as the 'full-', 'regular-', or 'normal-EPG system'.   

In addition to the R-EPG and normal-EPG systems, a third EPG system has been constructed: the emf-EPG system, based on the DC design too. This system is using a much higher input resistor value (with Ri ≥ 1012 Ohm [≥1 TΩ]*, Tjallingii, 1988) making resistance fluctuations of the insect or plant negligible, thus only recording the emf-components. The newest Giga-8dd (2018) has a digitally operated switch function between normal EPG (R+emf) and emf-EPG recording mode. In emf-mode the system is especially suitable in plant physiology interaction related experiments to measure accurately the membrane potentials and depolarisations in plant cells punctured by the aphid stylets (Salvador-Recatalá et al, 2014).

In summary, there are in fact 3 EPG systems: 1) the full or normal EPG system (DC based) that records both signal components, 2) the R-EPG system (AC based) that only records the R-components, and 3) the emf-EPG system (DC based) that only records the emf-components. The EPG from the normal EPG system is more ´complicated´ but contains the widest range of biological information.

Combined systems


The complete experimental setup


Fig. 2. Experimental EPG configuration. Only one of the 8 possible probes is shown here.

  EPG probe 4 channel AD convertor 8 channel AD convertor Giga-4 Giga-8 The available EPG system is the Giga-8d, a digital controlled device with 8 channels, suitable for simultaneous recording of up to 8 insects. In addition to the Giga-8d control unit the complete system comprises 8 probes, small pre-amplifiers that should be mounted inside a Faraday cage (Fig. 2). 'Giga' refers to the 1 GΩ (109 Ω) input resistance in the probe (see previous text sections). EPG recording should be done in the laboratory using potted plants or detached plant parts. There is no regularly produced EPG field system presently*. 

Technical specifications of the Giga-8d system and operation instructions are available in free manuals for hard and software on the Downloads page.