Part of the Disease Management of Fruits and Vegetables book series (DMFV, volume 2)


Pathogenesis can have both detrimental and beneficial impacts on plant fitness. As such, pathogens are important forces that influence the structure and dynamics in natural and manipulated plant ecosystems. Plant production and numbers within a community are constrained by environmental limitations, which are often mediated through plant interference. Competition for resources and allelopathy (chemical interactions) are the two most important ways that plants interfere with each other. This chapter reviews the effects of pathogens on the competitiveness and allelopathic ability of their hosts. In most cases, pathogens reduce the competitive ability of their host, making the host prone to displacement by neighbouring, resistant plants. However, pathogens may simultaneously increase the allelopathic ability of their hosts, thereby offsetting their loss in competitiveness to varying degrees. Evidence for enhanced allelopathy by infected plants comes in two forms: (i) pathogens stimulate the production of secondary metabolites by plants, many of which are implicated in allelopathy (eg phenolics), and (ii) field, glasshouse and bioassay studies showing that infected plants may suppress their neighbours more than healthy plants, under conditions of low competition. By conferring the benefit of increased allelopathy on their hosts, pathogens may maintain a self-advantage through increasing the survival chances of their hosts and ultimately themselves. The enhanced allelopathy of infected plants supports the ‘new function’ hypothesis, which suggests that pathogens evolve toward a mutualistic relationship with their host through the appearance of strains with beneficial effects on the host in addition to their detrimental effects.


White Clover Tall Fescue Perennial Ryegrass Allelopathic Effect Lolium Perenne 
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© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Primary IndustriesKnoxfield Centre, VictoriaAustralia

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