Carya illinoinensis (pecan) belongs to the Juglandaceae (walnut family) and is a major economic nut crop in the southern USA. Although evidence suggests that some species in the Juglandaceae are ectomycorrhizal, investigations on their ectomycorrhizal fungal symbionts are quite limited. Here we assessed the ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity in cultivated orchards of C. illinoinensis. Five pecan orchards in southern Georgia, USA, were studied, three of which were known to fruit the native edible truffle species Tuber lyonii. We sequenced rDNA from single ectomycorrhizal root tips sampled from a total of 50 individual trees. Mycorrhizae were identified by ITS and LSU rDNA sequence-based methods. Forty-four distinct ectomycorrhizal taxa were detected. Sequestrate taxa including Tuber and Scleroderma were particularly abundant. The two most abundant sequence types belonged to T. lyonii (17%) and an undescribed Tuber species (~20%). Because of our interest in the ecology of T. lyonii, we also conducted greenhouse studies to determine whether this species would colonize and form ectomycorrhizae on roots of pecan, oak, or pine species endemic to the region. T. lyonii ectomycorrhizae were formed on pecan and oak seedlings, but not pine, when these were inoculated with spores. That oak and pecan seedling roots were receptive to truffle spores indicates that spore slurry inoculation could be a suitable method for commercial use and that, ecologically, T. lyonii may function as a pioneer ectomycorrhizal species for these hosts.
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