1. Cool-season grasses can be simultaneously infected by foliar fungal endophytes and colonised by mycorrhizal fungi, the integrated functions of which are strong predictors of plant fitness within grassland ecosystems. Evidence has been presented previously that infection of grass species with foliar endophytes can negatively affect mycorrhizal colonisation. Here, we tested the hypothesis that mycorrhizal colonisation in turn adversely affects Neotyphodium endophyte concentrations and that the competitive interaction between the two endosymbionts is affected by resource supply.
2. Specifically, we report how competition between Glomus (G. mosseae– GM, G. intraradices– GI) mycorrhizal fungi and N. lolii (common strain (CS) and AR1) foliar endophytic strains is affected by P supply and water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) content in two Lolium perenne (perennial ryegrass) cultivars: a high sugar grass, AberDart, and a conventional (control) grass, Fennema.
3. The presence of Glomus mycorrhizae reduced the concentrations of endophytes and alkaloids in leaf blades and pseudostems. The reduction depended on P supply, ryegrass cultivar (notably WSC content) and endophyte strain. Conversely, foliar endophyte infection reduced mycorrhizal colonisation rates and concentrations in the roots of the control cultivar Fennema, although not in the high sugar cultivar, AberDart.
4. Neither GM nor N. lolii infection had an effect per se on the yield of root or blade compared with mycorrhiza-free (M-) and endophyte-free (E-) plants, respectively; though, yield of roots and blades was reduced by GI infection and at low P.
5. Competitive interactions between ecologically widespread foliar endophytes (valuable for plant protection) and mycorrhizal endosymbionts (valuable for P acquisition) as seen in this study are of critical importance especially in areas of high pest prevalence and low P availability. Our work stresses the need for elucidating the physiological/metabolic basis for such interactions between endosymbionts to understand how these processes contribute to plant performance and fitness in grassland ecosystems.