Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi promote silicon accumulation in plant roots, reducing the impacts of root herbivory
Studies have shown that arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi can reduce the performance of typically detrimental root feeding insects, yet the mechanisms remain unclear. This study aimed to investigate the effects of different sources of AM inocula on plant resistance to a root feeding insect in two different soils with different silicon (Si) concentrations.
Sugarcane (Saccharum spp. hybrid) was grown in high or low Si soil; plants were treated with either an inoculum comprising the native AM fungi, a commercial AM fungal inoculum or with no AM fungi. Root herbivore (Dermolepida albohirtum) performance was measured in a feeding assay.
In the low Si soil AM fungi increased root Si concentrations and reduced root herbivore performance. Both commercial and native AM treatments increased root Si and also reduced root herbivore growth rates by 107% and 81%, respectively. AM colonisation positively correlated with root Si concentrations. Distinct from this, in the high Si soil AM fungi had no impact on root Si or root herbivore growth. However, root consumption was reduced; a response independent of Si concentrations.
Our study suggests AM fungi can enhance Si based plant defences against root herbivores, but also highlights that interactions between AM fungi and root herbivores involves multiple mechanisms requiring further research.
KeywordsArbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Insect herbivory Root defences Silicon Sugarcane
We thank the teams at Sugar Research Australia Limited and the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment for their support, particularly Andrew Gherlenda, Lisa Derby and Allen Eaton. Funding was provided by Sugar Research Australia Ltd. (project no. 2014/104).
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