Interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and the hemiparasitic angiosperm Rhinanthus minor during co-infection of a host



The outcome of dual infection of the grass Lolium perenne L. by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and the parasitic angiosperm Rhinanthus minor L. was investigated in a glasshouse study. Colonization of L. perenne roots by AM fungi was significantly reduced by the presence of R. minor, as was host growth which fell by 44–51%. It was concluded that these two responses were linked, with AM colonization declining in response to the reduction in availability of host carbon. Parasite growth and reproductive output rose by 58% and 47% respectively when the hosts were mycorrhizal. These trends were unrelated to the attachment success of the parasite, but were accompanied by a significant increase in the formation of secondary haustoria. The benefits afforded the parasite when the hosts were mycorrhizal were attributed to increased carbon and nutrient flux resulting from alternations in sink strength. Host responses to parasitism and mycorrhizal colonization were not affected by the interaction between the two symbionts. However, the suggestion is made that the interaction between the AM fungi and parasite might have long-term ecological implications for the host species via its impact on parasite fecundity.