, Volume 96, Issue 3, pp 310-315

Effects of virus infection on demographic traits of an agamospermous population of Eupatorium chinense (Asteraceae)

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Abstract

There are few studies of the interaction between wild plants and viruses. In this paper, the incidence of a geminivirus (tobacco leaf curl virus, TLCV) infection, and its effects on mortality, growth and reproduction of its host-plant, Eupatorium chinense, are reported. A total of 221 plants of an agamospermous population of E. chinense were chosen and their demographic behaviour followed over 2 years (1991–1992). The proportion of infected plants differed between years, with fewer plants infected in 1991 than in 1992. Under low virus incidence (35.3% in 1991), infection was significantly associated with taller plants (>80 cm). However, when the incidence of infected plants increased by almost two times (69.1%) in 1992, this tendency disappeared and small plants were also infected. Virus infection had significant effects on mortality of agamospermous plants. Almost half of the initial number of marked plants (n=221) died after 1 year of observations. Of those dead plants (n=105), 86 plants (82%) were infected in 1991, indicating that virus infection was an important, but not the sole cause of mortality. In 1992, 116 plants were alive, and of these, 40% were infected in 1991, indicating that some infected plants survived 1 year. Agamospermous plants were classified in three groups according to the extent of virus infection (plants infected in 2 years, infected in 1 year and uninfected plants) to detect the effect of virus infection on growth of plants of E. chinense. Infected plants had significantly lower growth rates than healthy plants. Infected plants also produced significantly fewer seeds than uninfected plants. Virus infection, however, had no significant effect on the probability of reproduction in plants of E. chinense, suggesting that infected plants may reproduce but with a lower seed output. In this study, we showed that virus infection may have a strong effect on demographic traits and, as a consequence, on fitness components of plants of E. chinense. These effects were higher than those sometimes observed in other plant-herbivore or plant-pathogen interactions.