Spatial and Temporal Variation in Fungal Endophyte Communities Isolated from Cultivated Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)
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Studies of fungi in upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) cultivated in the United States have largely focused on monitoring and controlling plant pathogens. Given increasing interest in asymptomatic fungal endophytes as potential biological control agents, surveys are needed to better characterize their diversity, distribution patterns and possible applications in integrated pest management. We sampled multiple varieties of cotton in Texas, USA and tested for temporal and spatial variation in fungal endophyte diversity and community composition, as well as for differences associated with organic and conventional farming practices. Fungal isolates were identified by morphological and DNA identification methods. We found members of the genera Alternaria, Colletotrichum and Phomopsis, previously isolated as endophytes from other plant species. Other recovered species such as Drechslerella dactyloides (formerly Arthrobotrys dactyloides) and Exserohilum rostratum have not, to our knowledge, been previously reported as endophytes in cotton. We also isolated many latent pathogens, but some species such as Alternaria tennuissima, Epicoccum nigrum, Acremonium alternatum, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Chaetomium globosum and Paecilomyces sp., are known to be antagonists against plant pathogens, insects and nematode pests. We found no differences in endophyte species richness or diversity among different cotton varieties, but did detect differences over time and in different plant tissues. No consistent patterns of community similarity associated with variety, region, farming practice, time of the season or tissue type were observed regardless of the ecological community similarity measurements used. Results indicated that local fungal endophyte communities may be affected by both time of the year and plant tissue, but the specific community composition varies across sites. In addition to providing insights into fungal endophyte community structure, our survey provides candidates for further evaluation as potential management tools against a variety of pests and diseases when present as endophytes in cotton and other plants.
author list (cited authors)
Ek-Ramos, M. J., Zhou, W., Valencia, C. U., Antwi, J. B., Kalns, L. L., Morgan, G. D., Kerns, D. L., & Sword, G. A.