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Host species and strain combination determine growth reduction of spruce and birch seedlings colonized by root‐associated dark septate endophytes

Reininger, Vanessa, Grünig, Christoph R., Sieber, Thomas N.
Environmental microbiology 2012 v.14 no.4 pp. 1064-1076
Betula pendula, Picea abies, adverse effects, biomass, endophytes, genotype, growth retardation, host strains, mixed culture, plant growth, plant growth substances, seedlings, symbionts, woody plants
Interactions of Betula pendula and Picea abies with dark septate endophytes of the Phialocephala fortinii–Acephala applanata species complex (PAC) were studied. PAC are ubiquitous fungal root symbionts of many woody plant species but their ecological role is largely unknown. Sterile birch and spruce seedlings in monoculture and mixed culture were exposed to four PAC strains, added either singularly or paired in all possible combinations at 18°C and 23°C. Plant and fungal biomass was determined after 4 months. The most significant factors were strain and host combination. One of the strains significantly reduced biomass gain of spruce but not of birch. Plant biomass was negatively correlated with total endophytic fungal biomass in half of the strain – plant combinations. Endophytic PAC biomass was four times higher in spruce (≈ 40 mg g−1 drw) than in birch (≈ 10 mg g−1 drw). Competition between strains was strain‐dependent with some strains significantly reducing colonization density of other strains, and, thus, attenuating adverse effects of ‘pathogenic’ strains on plant growth in some strain – plant combinations. Biomass gain of spruce but not of birch was significantly reduced at higher temperature. In conclusion, host, fungal genotype, colonization density and presence of a competing PAC strain were the main determining factors for plant growth.