Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Dr. Rebecca McCulley

Abstract

Tall fescue is the most common cool-season grass in the eastern USA, with broad economic and ecological importance to the region. Tall fescue is known to associate with a fungal endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum, whose presence can decrease biotic and abiotic stress experienced by the plant. This thesis evaluates the response of tall fescue and the fungal endophyte symbiosis to predicted climate change. I participated in two multi-factor climate change projects where I investigated the response of tall fescue tissue chemistry and growth to various climate change factors. Endophyte-infected (E+) tall fescue had decreased alkaloid production under elevated CO2 but increased alkaloid production under elevated temperatures. Significant differences between E+ and E- (endophyte-free) tall fescue tissue chemistry were also found, suggesting the endophyte interacts with the plant response to abiotic stress. Although several studies have reported benefits of endophyte infection for tall fescue growing under drought stress, my research found no differences between E+ and E- total growth and surprisingly showed increased mortality of E+ individuals under elevated temperature. Taken together, my research indicates that this grass-fungal relationship will respond to climate change, and may produce dramatic and unforeseen results that question the widely believed mutualistic nature of the symbiosis.

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