Systemic colonization by Metarhizium robertsii enhances cover crop growth

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Fungi in the genus Metarhizium (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae) are insect pathogens that can establish as endophytes and can benefit their host plant. In field experiments, we observed a positive correlation between the prevalence of M. robertsii and legume cover crops, and a negative relationship with brassicaceous cover crops and with increasing proportion of cereal rye in mixtures. Here, we report the effects of endophytic M. robertsii on three cover crop species under greenhouse conditions. We inoculated seeds of Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum L., AWP), cereal rye (Secale cereale L.), and winter canola (Brassica napus L.) with conidia of M. robertsii to assess the effects of endophytic colonization on cover crop growth. We recovered M. robertsii from 59%, 46%, and 39% of seed-inoculated AWP, cereal rye, and canola plants, respectively. Endophytic M. robertsii significantly increased height and above-ground biomass of AWP and cereal rye but did not affect chlorophyll content of any of the cover crop species. Among inoculated plants from which we recovered M. robertsii, above-ground biomass of AWP was positively correlated with the proportion of colonized root but not leaf tissue sections. Our results suggest that winter cover crops may help to conserve Metarhizium spp. in annual cropping systems.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


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