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Evidence of a Mycorrhizal Mechanism for the Adaptation of Andropogon gerardii (Poaceae) to High- and Low-Nutrient Prairies

Peggy A. Schultz, R. Michael Miller, Julie D. Jastrow, Claudia V. Rivetta and James D. Bever
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 88, No. 9 (Sep., 2001), pp. 1650-1656
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3558410
Page Count: 7
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Evidence of a Mycorrhizal Mechanism for the Adaptation of Andropogon gerardii (Poaceae) to High- and Low-Nutrient Prairies
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Abstract

Andropogon gerardii seed obtained from Kansas and Illinois was grown in a controlled environment in their own and each other's soils, with and without arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Each ecotype grew comparatively better in its own soil indicating adaptation to its soil of origin. Overall, A. gerardii benefited more from AMF in low-nutrient Kansas soil than Illinois soil. The two ecotypes, however, did not benefit equally from mycorrhizal infection. The Kansas ecotype was three times more responsive to mycorrhizal infection in the Kansas soil than was the Illinois ecotype. Our results indicate that plant adaptation to the nutrient levels of their local soils is likely to be due, at least in part, to a shift in their dependence on mycorrhizal fungi. The Illinois ecotype of A. gerardii has evolved a reduced dependence upon these fungi and greater reliance on a more highly branched root system. In contrast, the Kansas ecotype had a significantly coarser root system and invested proportionately greater carbon in the symbiotic association with AMF as measured by spore production. This study provides the first demonstration that plants can adapt to changing soil nutrient levels by shifting their dependence on AMF. This result has broad implications for our understanding of the role of these fungi in agricultural systems.

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