Regular Article

Plant and Soil

, Volume 368, Issue 1, pp 419-431

First online:

Co-occurring grass species differ in their associated microbial community composition in a temperate native grassland

  • Yui OsanaiAffiliated withSchool of Plant Science, University of Tasmania Email author 
  • , Damian S. BougoureAffiliated withDepartment of Primary Industries, Biosciences Research Division, Victorian AgriBiosciences Centre
  • , Helen L. HaydenAffiliated withDepartment of Primary Industries, Biosciences Research Division, Victorian AgriBiosciences Centre
  • , Mark J. HovendenAffiliated withSchool of Plant Science, University of Tasmania

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Background and aims

Specific associations exist between plant species and the soil microbial community and these associations vary between habitat types and different plant groups. However, there is evidence that the associations are highly specific. Hence, we aimed to determine the specificity of plant-microbe relationships amongst co-occurring grass species in a temperate grassland.

Methods and results

We examined the broad microbial groups of bacteria and fungi as well as a specific fungal group, the arbuscular mycorrhizal community amongst two dominant C3 and C4 species and one sub-dominant C3 species using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis. We found that the two dominant species were more similar to each other in their bacterial and arbuscular mycorrhizal community composition than either was to the sub-dominant species, but not in their fungal community composition. We also found no clear evidence that those differences were directly linked to soil chemical properties.


Our results demonstrate that co-occurring grass species have a distinct soil microbial community and T-RFLP analysis is able to detect plant species effect on the microbial community composition on an extremely local scale, providing an insight into the differences in the response of bacterial, fungal and arbuscular mycorrhizal communities to different, but similar and co-occurring, plant species.


C3/C4 grasslands Plant-microbe associations Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Soil bacteria Soil fungi T-RFLP