How soil-borne pathogens may affect plant competition

W.H. Van der Putten, B.A.M. Peters

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    Abstract

    A role for pathogens in plant competition has often been suggested, but examples are rare and, in the case of soil pathogens, virtually absent. In this paper we examine if and how soil-borne pathogens may play a role in plant competition. As a model, two successional plant species from coastal sand dunes were used: Ammophila arenaria (marram grass) and Festuca rubra sap. arenaria (sand fescue). The root zone of A. arenaria contains pathogens that contribute to the degeneration of their host when dunes become stabilized. These pathogens (plant parasitic nematodes and pathogenic fungi) are relatively harmless to the immediate successor F. rubra. We tested the hypothesis that F. rubra, when gown in a mixed culture with A. arenaria, will be favored when A. arenaria is exposed to soil- borne pathogens from its own root zone. In a greenhouse, seedlings of both species were grown in replacement series in sterilized (pathogen-free) and unsterilized (pathogen- containing) soils originating from the root zone of natural A. arenaria. Nutrient additions, soil moisture, and the length of the experiment were based on two pilot studies. When exposed to its soil-borne pathogens, A. arenaria was outcompeted, especially when it constituted
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1785-1795
    JournalEcology
    Volume78
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1997

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