, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 95-100

The effect of host mycorrhizal status on host plant–parasitic plant interactions

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Two pot experiments were conducted to examine three-level interactions between host plants, mycorrhizal fungi and parasitic plants. In a greenhouse experiment, Poa annua plants were grown in the presence or absence of an AM fungus (either Glomus lamellosum V43a or G. mosseae BEG29) and in the presence or absence of a root hemiparasitic plant (Odontites vulgaris). In a laboratory experiment, mycorrhizal infection (Glomus claroideum BEG31) of Trifolium pratense host plants (mycorrhizal versus non-mycorrhizal) was combined with hemiparasite infection (Rhinanthus serotinus) of the host (parasitized versus non-parasitized). Infection with the two species of Glomus had no significant effect on the growth of P. annua, while hemiparasite infection caused a significant reduction in host biomass. Mycorrhizal status of P. annua hosts (i.e. presence/absence of AM fungus) affected neither the biomass nor the number of flowers produced by the attached O. vulgaris plants. Infection with G. claroideum BEG31 greatly increased the biomass of T. pratense, but hemiparasite infection had no effect. The hemiparasitic R. serotinus plants attached to mycorrhizal hosts had higher biomass and produced more flowers than plants growing with non-mycorrhizal hosts. Roots of T. pratense were colonized by the AM fungus to an extent independent of the presence or absence of the hemiparasite. Our results confirm earlier findings that the mycorrhizal status of a host plant can affect the performance of an attached root hemiparasite. However, improvement of the performance of the parasitic plant following attachment to a mycorrhizal host depends on the extent to which the AM fungi is able to enhance the growth of the host.

Accepted: 23 February 2001