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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOCONTROL OF FUMONISIN AND OTHER MYCOTOXINS IN CORN AND TALL FESCUE WITH MICROBIAL ENDOPHYTES

Location: Toxicology and Mycotoxin Research

Title: Exploring the evolutionary ecology of fungal endophyte in agricultural systems: using functional traits to reveal mechanisms in community processes

Authors
item Saunders, Megan -
item Glenn, Anthony
item Kohn, Linda -

Submitted to: Evolutionary Applications
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 28, 2010
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Repository URL: http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/55025/PDF
Citation: Saunders, M., Glenn, A.E., Kohn, L.M. 2010. Exploring the evolutionary ecology of fungal endophyte in agricultural systems: using functional traits to reveal mechanisms in community processes. Evolutionary Applications. 3(5):525-537.

Interpretive Summary: All plants, including crop species such as corn and wheat, contain a mixture of fungal species growing within the plants. These fungi are referred to as endophytes. Currently, little is known about the biological factors that are important in determining which fungal species infect host plants and make up the endophyte community assembly. In this review article, we suggest that the most direct route to understanding the mechanisms underlying community assembly is through the study of functional trait variation in the host and its fungal consortium. We review studies on crop endophytes that investigate plant and fungal traits likely to be important in endophyte community assembly processes. We focus on three main areas that may enhance our ability to approach and detect these processes: 1) use of the “assembly rules” concept to identify specific mechanisms that influence endophyte community dynamics, 2) measurement of functional trait variation in plants and fungi to better understand endophyte community processes and plant-fungal interactions, and 3) investigation of microbe-microbe interactions, and fungal traits that mediate them. This approach is well suited for research in agricultural systems, where pair-wise host-fungus interactions and mechanisms of fungal-fungal competition have frequently been described. We also stress the possibility that human manipulation of crop phenotypes and use of fungal biocontrol species can significantly influence endophyte community assembly. By evaluating endophyte assembly rules, it may be possible to fine-tune crop management strategies.

Technical Abstract: All plants, including crop species, harbor a community of fungal endophyte species, however, we know little about the biotic factors that are important in endophyte community assembly. We suggest that the most direct route to understanding the mechanisms underlying community assembly is through the study of functional trait variation in the host and its fungal consortium. We review studies on crop endophytes that investigate plant and fungal traits likely to be important in endophyte community processes. We focus on approaches that could speed detection of general trends in endophyte community assembly: 1) use of the “assembly rules” concept to identify specific mechanisms that influence endophyte community dynamics, 2) measurement of functional trait variation in plants and fungi to better understand endophyte community processes and plant-fungal interactions, and 3) investigation of microbe-microbe interactions, and fungal traits that mediate them. This approach is well suited for research in agricultural systems, where pair-wise host-fungus interactions and mechanisms of fungal-fungal competition have frequently been described. Areas of consideration include the possibility that human manipulation of crop phenotype and fungal biocontrol species can significantly influence endophyte community assembly. Evaluation of endophyte assembly rules may help to fine-tune crop management strategies.

Last Modified: 4/15/2014
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