Poster: Biology & Disease Mgmt: Mycology
Anything But Barren: Fungal Diversity and Functions in the Pine Barrens
N. ZHANG (1), J. Luo (2), S. Miller (2), E. Walsh (2), S. Bonos (2), Z. Helsel (2) (1) Rutgers University, U.S.A.; (2) Rutgers Univ, U.S.A.
Pine barrens ecosystem has acidic and nutrient-poor soils, where switchgrass and other stress tolerant species are dominant understory plants. Our results indicate that grass (Poaceae) roots in the pine barrens are one of the major reservoirs of novel fungi with 47% being undescribed species. Importantly, we observed that Acidomelania panicicola (Leotiomycetes), a new genus and species we described from switchgrass in the New Jersey Pine Barrens increases root hair growth of switchgrass and rice in low nutrient conditions. We also described another new genus Pseudophialophora (Magnaporthales, Sordariomycetes) that contains several pathogenic species. Naming and description of a number of other new fungal taxa are in progress. We compared the root fungal community between the wild switchgrass from the Pine Barrens and cultivated switchgrass in managed farms using both culture and metagenomic methods. Both methods suggest that Leotiomycetes are dominant fungi in the switchgrass roots from pine barrens soils, while Sordariomycetes are dominant in the roots growing in the rich farm soils. More experiments are being conducted to test our hypothesis that Acidomelania and other Leotiomycetes play a role in increasing plant tolerance to abiotic stresses (e.g., low pH, low nutrients, drought) and contribute to improved establishment in poor soils. Results from this work will facilitate ecological and evolutionary studies on root-associated fungi.