How is the relationship between the C4 cereal Sorghum bicolor and the C3 root hemi-parasites Striga hermonthica and Striga asiatica affected by elevated CO2?


J. R. Watling. Fax: 0114 276 0159; e-mail:


The C4 cereal Sorghum bicolor was grown under either ambient (350 μmol mol−1) or elevated (700 μmol mol−1) [CO2] in either the presence or absence of the C3 obligate root hemi-parasites Striga hermonthica or S. asiatica. Both uninfected and infected sorghum plants were taller and had greater biomass, photosynthetic rates, water-use efficiencies and leaf areas under elevated compared with ambient [CO2]. There was no evidence of any downregula-tion of photosynthesis in sorghum grown at elevated [CO2]. Biomass of infected sorghum was lower under both ambient and elevated [CO2], and although infected plants were larger under elevated [CO2] the relative impact of infection on host biomass was either the same (S. asiatica) or only slightly less (S. hermonthica) than under ambient [CO2]. In contrast, biomass of S. hermonthica and S. asiatica per host was lower under elevated than ambient [CO2], although rates of photosynthesis were higher at elevated [CO2] and parasite stomatal conductance was not responsive to [CO2]. Parasites emerged above-ground and flowered earlier under ambient compared with elevated [CO2]. It appears that the mechanism(s) by which the parasites affect host growth is (are) relatively insensitive to increased atmospheric [CO2], although the parasites themselves were adversely affected by growth at elevated [CO2].