Submitted to: Functional Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/15/2006
Publication Date: 2/1/2007
Citation: Krauss, J., Harri, S.A., Bush, L., Husi, R., Bigler, L., Power, S.A., Muller, C.B. 2007. Effects of Fertilizer, Fungal Endophytes and Plant Cultivar on Performance of Insect Herbivores and Their Natural Enemies. Functional Ecology. 21:107-116.
Interpretive Summary: University of Kentucky publication funded via a congressionally mandated SCA entitled "Continuation of Imroved Forage Livestock Production Systems (CRIS Number: 6440-21310-001-05S)".
Technical Abstract: 1. Endophytic fungi are associates of most species of plants and may modify insect community structures through the production of toxic alkaloids. Fertilization is known to increase food plant quality for herbivores, but it is also conceivable that additional nitrogen could increase the production of the insect toxic alkaloid, peramine, in endophyte- infected plants. 2. The relative importance of soil fertility and endophyte infection on herbivores and their natural enemies is unknown. As performance of the host plant is often affected by an interaction between endophyte infection and genetic background, four different plant cultivars were tested. The main questions addressed in this study were whether plant cultivar and fertilizer addition to endophyte-infected and endophyte-free Lolium perenne affect alkaloid concentrations, plant life-history traits and the abundances of aphid species and their parasitoids. 3. In a full factorial outdoor experiment we found a strong positive effect of fertilizer on plant biomass and on the abundance of aphids and parasitoids. While plant traits differed between cultivars, there was little effect of cultivar on either aphid or parasitoid abundance. Only endophyte-infected plants contained alkaloids, and the concentra- tion of peramine was enhanced in fertilized plants. However, endophyte infection had no negative effect on aphid or parasitoid abundances. Plant traits were only weakly in'uenced by endophyte infection in the 'eld, which contrasts with plant growth room studies, where both germination rate and plant height were in'uenced by endophyte– cultivar interactions. 4. The generally weak effects of endophytes in the outdoor experiment could be explained by various additional constraints under 'eld conditions and the relatively low peramine concentration that we observed.