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Interactions between the Root Hemiparasite Melampyrum arvense and Mixtures of Host Plants: Heterotrophic Benefit and Parasite-Mediated Competition

Diethart Matthies
Oikos
Vol. 75, No. 1 (Feb., 1996), pp. 118-124
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
DOI: 10.2307/3546328
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3546328
Page Count: 7
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Interactions between the Root Hemiparasite Melampyrum arvense and Mixtures of Host Plants: Heterotrophic Benefit and Parasite-Mediated Competition
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Abstract

Root hemiparasitic plants frequently establish haustorial connections simultaneously to several host species, which may differ in the quality of their contribution to the nutrition of the parasite and in their sensitivity to parasitic attack. The obligate hemiparasite Melampyrum arvense was grown with three host species (Lolium perenne, Medicago sativa and Linum usitatissimum) and with all possible binary host mixtures to test whether (1) a mixed host supply (e.g. a legume and a grass) results in an increase in heterotrophic benefit to the parasite and (2) whether the hemiparasite may influence the competitive balance between hosts. Growth of M. arvense was much stronger with the legume (M. sativa) as host than with the two non-leguminous species. The biomass of parasites grown with binary mixtures of the host species was not higher than that of parasites grown with the three host species separately. Thus, the results do not support the hypothesis that hemiparasites benefit from a mixed host supply. The rank order of species in terms of host quality (M. sativa > L. usitatissimum > L. perenne) was the same as that in terms of damage suffered from the hemiparasite. Host and parasite biomass in individual pots were also negatively correlated. In two of the binary mixtures of host species M. arvense influenced the competitive balance between hosts, because the hemiparasite reduced the growth of the legume M. sativa much more strongly than that of the other species. Overall productivity per pot (hosts + hemiparasite) was reduced by M. arvense, because parasite biomass did not fully compensate for the reduction in host biomass caused by parasitism.

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