Neighbourhood stories: role of neighbour identity, spatial location and order of arrival in legume and non-legume initial interactions
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Backgrounds and aims
Interactions between plants can be both positive and negative, denoting facilitation and competition. Although facilitative effects of having legume neighbours (focus on yield productivity) are well studied, a better mechanistic understanding of how legumes interact with non-legumes in terms of root distribution is needed. We tested the effects of neighbour identity, its spatial location, as well as the effects of plant order of arrival on above and belowground traits and root distribution.
We performed a rhizotron experiment (4 weeks duration) in which we grew maize alone, with only a legume, only another grass, or with both species and tracked roots of the plant species using green and red fluorescent markers.
Maize grew differently when it had a neighbour, with reduced development when growing with wheat compared to alone. Growing with a legume generally equated to the same outcome as not having a neighbour. Roots grew towards the legume species and away from the wheat. Order of arrival affected aboveground traits to a certain extent, but its effects on maize roots were dependent on spatial location.
Our study provides evidence of facilitation, showing the importance of the identity of the neighbours, together with their spatial location, and how order of arrival can modulate the outcome of these initial interactions.
KeywordsPlant-plant interactions Green fluorescent protein (GFP) Legumes Priority effect Competition Nitrogen facilitation Rhizotrons Roots
We thank Marlene Mueller, Edelgard Schoelgens and the ZEA in the Forschungszentrum Jülich for analysing the soil and plant samples. We thank also Mark Müller-Linow for image alignment. We also thank Benjamin M. Delory for his valuable suggestions on how to improve our manuscript. This research was funded by Forschungszentrum Jülich (IBG2) and Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil (CNPq) with the PhD scholarship of E.W.A.W.
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