Influence of phosphorus on the growth and ergot alkaloid content of Neotyphodium coenophialum-infected tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.)

  • Malinowski D
  • Belesky D
  • Hill N
 et al. 
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Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) plants infected by the fungal endophyte Neotyphodium coenophialum (Morgan-Jones & Gams) (Glenn et al., 1996) often perform better than noninfected plants, especially in marginal resource environments. There is a lack of information about endophyte related effects on the rhizosphere of grasses. In a greenhouse experiment, four endophyte-infected (E+) tall fescue clones (DN2, DN4, DN7, DN11) and their endophyte-free (E-) forms were grown in limed (pH 6.3) Porter soil (low fertility, acidic, high aluminum and low phosphorus content, coarse-loamy mixed mesic Umbric Dystrochrept) at three soil P levels (17, 50, and 96 mg P kg(-1) soil) for five months. Excluding the genotype effect, endophyte infection significantly increased cumulative herbage DM yield by 8% at 17 mg P kg(-1) soil but reduced cumulative herbage DM yield by 12% at 96 mg P kg(-1) soil. With increased P availability in the soil, shoot and root DM, and root/shoot ratio in E+ plants were significantly less when compared to E-plants. Endophyte infection increased specific root length at 17 and 50 mg P kg(-1) soil. At soil P level of 17 mg P kg(-1) soil, E+ plants had significantly higher P concentrations both in roots and shoots. Similar relationships were found for Mg and Ca. E+ plants had significantly higher Zn, Fe, and Al concentration in roots, and lower Mn and Al concentration in shoots when compared to E-plants. Ergot alkaloid concentration and content in shoot of E+ plants increased with increasing P availability in the soil from 17 to 50 mg P kg(-1) but declined again at 96 mg P kg(-1) soil. Ergot alkaloid accumulation in roots increased linearly with P availability in the soil. Results suggest that endophyte infection affects uptake of phosphorus and other mineral nutrients and may benefit tall fescue grown on P-deficient soils. Phosphorus seems also to be involved in ergot alkaloid accumulation in endophyte-infected tall fescue.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Acid soils
  • Endophyte
  • Ergot alkaloids
  • Festuca arundinacea
  • Neotyphodium coenophialum
  • Phosphorus
  • Tall fescue

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