The University of Arizona

Endophytic fungi in Canada wild rye in natural grasslands.

M.A. Vinton, E.S. Kathol, K.P. Vogel, A.A. Hopkins

Abstract


Some grasses harbor endophytic fungi living in intercellular spaces in the leaves, stems and reproductive organs. The fungi can dramatically affect the physiology and ecology of plants. For example, fungi may produce toxins that deter herbivores and they may alter the water status of the plant to increase drought tolerance. The distribution of fungal infection in natural plant populations is unknown for many host species. We investigated the occurrence of endophytic fungi in Elymus canadensis L. (Canada wild rye) from 13 remnant prairie sites in the midwest and 23 sites in the southern Great Plains. Collections of plant tissue came from Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas. All midwest plants were grown in a common garden site in eastern Nebraska. Seeds collected from Oklahoma and Texas accessions were planted in the greenhouse. At least 3 tillers from 2 plants of each accession were screened for endophytes, using light microscopy. The endophytic fungus was found in seed of all accessions and in plants from all but 4 accessions. The functional significance of the fungus is unclear, but it may affect plants by enhancing productivity or deterring herbivores. The widespread occurrence of endophytic fungi in natural populations of E. canadensis suggests that the plant-fungal association may be long-standing and important in the evolution and success of this native prairie species.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v54i4_vinton


Keywords


Elymus canadensis;mutualism;colonization;host plants;Iowa;plant physiology;toxins;plant-water relations;leaves;Illinois;Missouri;stems;Kansas;plant ecology;incidence;Nebraska;herbivores;Oklahoma;tillers;Texas;prairies;geographical distribution;Acremonium;endophytes

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