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Aphids influence soil fungal communities in conventional agricultural systems

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JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
DateAccepted/In press - 24 Jun 2019
DatePublished (current) - 12 Jul 2019
Number of pages13
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) form symbioses with the roots of most plant species, including cereals. AMF can increase the uptake of nutrients including nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), and of silicon (Si) as well as increase host resistance to various stresses. Plants can simultaneously interact with above-ground insect herbivores such as aphids, which can alter the proportion of plant roots colonized by AMF. However, it is unknown if aphids impact the structure of AMF communities colonizing plants or the extent of the extraradical mycelium produced in the soil, both of which can influence the defensive and nutritional benefit a plant derives from the symbiosis. This study investigated the effect of aphids on the plant-AMF interaction in a conventionally managed agricultural system. As plants also interact with other soil fungi, the non-AMF fungal community was also investigated. We hypothesized that aphids would depress plant growth, and reduce intraradical AMF colonization, soil fungal hyphal density and the diversity of AM and non-AM fungal communities. To test the effects of aphids, field plots of barley enclosed with insect proof cages were inoculated with Sitobion avenae or remained uninoculated. AMF specific and total fungal amplicon sequencing assessed root fungal communities 46 days after aphid addition. Aphids did not impact above-ground plant biomass, but did increase the grain N:P ratio. Whilst aphid presence had no impact on AMF intraradical colonization, soil fungal hyphal length density, or AMF community characteristics, there was a trend for the aphid treatment to increase vesicle numbers and the relative abundance of the AMF family Gigasporaceae. Contrary to expectations, the aphid treatment also increased the evenness of the total fungal community. This suggests that aphids can influence soil communities in conventional arable systems, a result that could have implications for multitrophic feedback loops between crop pests and soil organisms across the above-below-ground interface.

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© 2019 Wilkinson, Miranda, Ferrari, Hartley and Hodge.

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