Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fungus helps tall fescue choke out native plants

30.08.2005


Bitter-tasting fescue takes over more quickly with help of plant-eating bugs, animals



New research by biologists at Rice University, Indiana University and George Mason University reveals how some non-native fescue grass gets a leg up over competing native plants: it’s passed over by plant-eating insects and animals because its leaves are laced with toxic alkaloids, thanks to a symbiotic fungus that has co-evolved with the grass.

In a 54-month study conducted at Indiana University, scientists showed that ’tall fescue,’ a common variety that is infected with the symbiotic fungus Neotyphodium coenophialum, tended to choke out uninfected fescue and native plant species. Tall fescue took over test plots much more quickly when herbivores had full access.


The research appears in the Aug. 30 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"The practical implications of our findings are that the more herbivores there are in an area, the more likely it will be that infected tall fescue grass will spread and suppress native plants," said co-author Jennifer Rudgers, now an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Rice.

Fescue, which is native to the Mediterranean, covers an estimated 37 million U.S. acres. It is cultivated for grazing and is often used as turf grass on lawns, golf courses and highway rights-of-way. Ranchers do not typically cultivate tall fescue because the symbiotic fungus it carries, known as an endophyte, produces alkaloids that have negative health effects for livestock. It is estimated that 80 percent of U.S. fescue is endophyte-infected, and in some applications, like turf grass, it’s the preferred variety.

Prior research on hereditary plant symbionts like the fescue endophyte have tended to look at plant-fungal pairings in isolation. Rudgers said she, post-doc advisor Keith Clay of Indiana University, and co-author Jenny Holah of George Mason University sought to get a more realistic picture of the ecological effects of symbiosis.

"We wanted to find out how the surrounding community affected the relationship between its host and its symbiont," she said. "The implications of the research are broad because it’s estimated that similar fungal symbionts exist in more than 20 percent of native U.S. grasses."

The tall fescue study was conducted on 60 plots near Bloomington, Ind., that measured 25 square meters apiece. At the start of the 4.5-year study, the land was plowed and planted with fescue seeds that sprouted alongside native grasses. Half of the seeds were tall fescue, which carries the fungal symbiont, and half did not carry the symbiont. The fungus is not transmitted by insects or wind and is only found in plants that sprout from infected seeds.

Half of the test plots were fenced to keep out foraging animals, and half of the unfenced and fenced plots were sprayed with an insecticide to suppress insect herbivores. Tall fescue progressed most slowly in plots that were both sprayed and fenced, constituting about 50 percent of live plant mass in the plots by study’s end. In unfenced and unsprayed plots, tall fescue faired best, contributing to 75 percent of the plot by study completion.

"Importantly, we found that more fescue in the unsprayed and unfenced plots was endophyte-infected compared to the plots with herbivore-reduction treatments," said Rudgers "This is significant because it shows that the herbivores actually drive an increase in the relative abundance of infected plants."

In follow-up studies, Rudgers plans to see how tall fescue fares against competitors under drought and non-drought conditions, and she also plans to study symbiotic relationships in native grasses, including some Texas species.

Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rice.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>