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Pollen source and resource limitation to fruit production in the rare species Eremosparton songoricum (Fabaceae)

Shi, Xiang, Wang, Jian-Cheng, Zhang, Dao-Yuan, Gaskin, John, Pan, Bo-Rong
Nordic journal of botany 2010 v.28 no.4 pp. 438
Eremosparton, Megachile, NPK fertilizers, abortion (plants), deblossoming, deserts, foraging, fruit set, mating systems, nutrient availability, ovules, pods, pollen, pollination, pollinators, seed set, stigma
Eremosparton songoricum (Litv.) Vass. is a rare, central Asian desert species which shows lower fruit set and seed set (<16%) than most hermaphroditic species. We hypothesized that fruit production was limited by pollen and resources. To evaluate potential fruit abortion due to pollen limitation, supplemental hand-pollination was undertaken, the mating system was investigated and the foraging behavior of pollinators was recorded. To investigate possibile resource limitation, flowers and young pods were artificially removed and fertilization were manipulated. The results showed that under natural pollination, the number of pollen deposited on the stigma greatly exceed the number of ovules per ovary. Mating system experiments showed that the species is self-compatible, but depended on pollinators to set seeds. Supplemental outcross pollination increased fruit set significantly. The most frequent effective pollinator Megachile terminate Morawitz, was observed pollinating many flowers of the same individual plant (74.5±1.3%). These results suggested that fruit production is affected by insufficient outcross pollen rather than by pollen quantity. Removal of 2/3 of the flowers and young pods led to significantly higher fruit set, as did addition of fertilizers (N–P–K: 0.025–0.05–0.013 g, N–P–K: 0.05–0.1–0.025 g) showing that reducing resource acceptors and increasing inorganic resources both helps to improve fruit set. We therefore conclude that reproductive success of E. songoricum is limited by both outcross pollen and available nutrients.