Submitted to: Ecological Society of America (ESA)
Publication Type: Abstract only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/23/2013
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Background/Question/Methods As drivers of biogeochemical processes including decomposition, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration, fungi are an important component of the belowground portion of agroecosystems. Many fungi have beneficial roles in agroecosystems and serve as a link between above and belowground processes by enhancing plant nutrient and water acquisition. Others act as pathogens that cause significant crop and economic losses. Although fungi have been studied in agroecosystems for decades, we are only now beginning to grasp the taxonomic diversity and functional capabilities of soil fungi. As we work towards developing management practices to support belowground processes, we must also continue to develop the means to properly monitor and assess the structure and function of fungal communities. Results/Conclusions A host of new molecular and bioinformatic tools offer unparalleled opportunities for examining belowground communities. However, many of these tools, including nucleotide reference databases, are optimized for bacteria. While there are considerable obstacles in adapting these tools to study fungi, they hold great potential for addressing how management practices influence fungal diversity and functional capabilities. Methods such as metagenomics and metatranscriptomics can be used to elucidate molecular-level interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and host plants. These novel tools can be used to identify the presence and activity of genes regulating pathogen defense and the uptake of water and nutrients. This presentation will discuss advantages, disadvantages, and challenges of current and emerging methods and how they can be used to study the structure and function of fungal communities in agroecosystems.