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Endophytes inconsistently affect plant communities across Schedonorus arundinaceus hosts

Yurkonis, K. A, K. Shukla, J. Holdenried, H. A. Hager, K. A. Bolton, J. N. Klironomos, H. Maherali and J. A. Newman. 2014. Plant Ecology

Abstract

Fungal endophytes in cool-season grasses may affect communities at multiple trophic levels. However, it is unclear whether community-scale endophyte effects arise due to the endophyte itself or as a result of unique, endophyte-host interactions. We used a long-term field experiment to test whether common-toxic (CT) and non-ergot alkaloid-producing (novel) endophytes in Schedonorus arundinaceus (tall fescue) forage cultivars consistently affect communities across tall fescue hosts. Tilled plots (2 × 2 m; Guelph, ON) were seeded with Georgia 5 and Jesup cultivars containing either the CT or AR542 (novel) endophyte and allowed to be re-colonized by plant species from the local propagule pool. Non-seeded control plots were included to assess effects of seeding the non-native grass. We assessed plant, invertebrate, soil moisture, and soil nutrient responses to the endophyte-cultivar treatments after four growing seasons. Seeding tall fescue affected plant species abundances, but not richness, and did not consistently alter soil moisture and nutrient pools. Endophyte identity in the tall fescue cultivars affected the communities, but effects were not consistent between cultivars. Within Georgia 5, the AR542 endophyte reduced tall fescue abundance and altered the invertebrate community relative to CT plots. Within Jesup, the AR542 endophyte reduced species evenness and decreased soil moisture during dry periods relative to CT plots. Endophyte effects were not consistent between cultivars, and it is probable that the community-scale effects of endophyte infection in tall fescue cultivars arise due to unique interactions between cultivar and endophyte.

Key Words

Festuca arundinacea Long-term effects of fungal endophytes experiment Lolium arundinaceum MAXQ™ MAXP™ Neotyphodium coenophialum