Ectomycorrhizal inoculum potential of northeastern US forest soils for American chestnut restoration: results from field and laboratory bioassays
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- Dulmer, K.M., LeDuc, S.D. & Horton, T.R. Mycorrhiza (2014) 24: 65. doi:10.1007/s00572-013-0514-y
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American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was once a dominant overstory tree in eastern USA but was decimated by chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica). Blight-resistant chestnut is being developed as part of a concerted restoration effort to bring this heritage tree back. Here, we evaluate the potential of field soils in the northern portion of the chestnut's former range to provide ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungus inoculum for American chestnut. In our first study, chestnut seedlings were grown in a growth chamber using soil collected from three sites dominated by red oak (Quercus rubra) as inoculum and harvested after 5 months. Of the 14 EM fungi recovered on these seedlings, four species dominated in soils from all three sites: Laccaria laccata, a Tuber sp., Cenococcum geophilum, and a thelephoroid type. Seedlings grown in the nonsterilized soils were smaller than those growing in sterilized soils. In the second study, chestnut seedlings were grown from seed planted directly into soils at the same three sites. Seedlings with intermingling roots of established trees of various species were harvested after 5 months. Seventy-one EM fungi were found on the root tips of the hosts, with 38 occurring on chestnut seedlings. Multiple versus single host EM fungi were significantly more abundant and frequently encountered. The fungi observed dominating on seedlings in the laboratory bioassay were not frequently encountered in the field bioassay, suggesting that they may not have been active in mycelial networks in the field setting but were in the soils as resistant propagules that became active in the bioassay. These results show that soil from red oak stands can be used to inoculate American chestnut with locally adapted ectomycorrhizal fungi prior to outplanting, a relatively cost effective approach for restoration efforts.