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Keywords:

  • Ceratocystis polonica;
  • growth–differentiation balance hypothesis;
  • Heterobasidion parviporum;
  • plant defence;
  • resource trade-off;
  • starch dynamics

Ceratocystis polonica and Heterobasidion parviporum are important fungal pathogens in Norway spruce (Picea abies). Tree susceptibility to these pathogens with respect to phenology was studied using artificial fungal inoculations at six stages of bud development, and assessed by measuring phloem necroses in the stems of 2- and 8-year-old trees. Tree capacity for resistance was assessed by measuring phloem nonstructural carbohydrates at each stage. Phloem necroses were significantly larger in trees with fungal versus control inoculations and increased significantly over time. Changes in nonstructural carbohydrates occurred in the trees; a significant decline in starch and a slight but significant increase in total sugars occurred over time. These results suggest that susceptibility to fungal pathogens and carbohydrate levels in the stems of the trees were related to fine-scale changes in bud development. A trade-off may occur between allocation of starch (the major fraction of the stem carbohydrate pool) to bud development/shoot growth versus defence of the stem. Previous tests of plant defence hypotheses have focused on herbivory on plants growing under different environmental conditions, but the role of phenology and the effect of pathogens are also important to consider in understanding plant resource allocation patterns.