Neotyphodium coenophialum-endophyte infection affects the ability of tall fescue to use sparingly available phosphorus Academic Article uri icon


  • Neotyphodium coenophialum, (Morgan-Jones and Gams) Glenn, Bacon and Hanlin, infected tail fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) plants perform better than non-infected isolines on phosphorus (P)-deficient soils. Our objective was to characterize growth and P uptake dynamics of tall rescue in response to endophyte infection and P source at low P availability in soil. Two tall rescue genotypes (DN2 and DN4) infected with their naturally occurring N. coenophialum strains (E+), and in noninfected (E-) forms were grown in Lily soil (fine loamy siliceous, mesic Typic Hapludult) in a greenhouse for 20 weeks. Three soil P treatments were imposed: no P supplied (control) and P supplied as commercial fertilizer (PF) or as phosphate rock (PR) at the level of 25 mg P kg-1 soil. Interaction of tall fescue genotype and endophyte status had a significant influence on mineral element uptake suggesting high specificity of endophyte-tall fescue associations. Endophyte infection did not affect root dry matter (DM) when no P was supplied but shoot DM was reduced by 20%. More biomass was produced and greater P uptake rate occurred in PR than PF treatment. Root DM was greater in E+ DN4 than E-DN4 when supplied with either PF or PR. In contrast, endophyte infection did not affect root DM of DN2, regardless of P source. Relative growth rate (RGR) of E+ plants grown with PR was 16% greater than that of E-plants. Endophyte infection did not improve growth or P uptake in PF treatment. When PR was supplied, P uptake rate was 24% greater in E+ DN2 than E- DN2, but endophyte infection did not benefit DN4. Phosphorus-use efficiency was 6% less in E+ DN2 but 16% greater in E+ DN4 compared to E- plants, regardless of P source. Root exudates of E+ DN2, but not E+ DN4 solubilized more P from PR than those of E- plants. The correlation between root RGR and P uptake rate was relatively high for E-plants (r=0.76), but low for E+ plants (r=0.27) grown with PR. Results suggest that P uptake by E+ tall fescue might rely on mechanisms other than an increase in root biomass (surface area). Endophyte infection modified tall rescue responses to P source. This phenomenon was associated with modes of P acquisition which included enhanced activity of root exudates in releasing P from PR in E+ plants (DN2), and increased root biomass (DN4). The dominant means of P acquisition may be determined by a specific association of endophyte and tall fescue genomes. Endophyte-tall fescue association plasticity contributes to widespread success of symbiotic in marginal resource conditions.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Malinowski, D. P., & Belesky, D. P.

citation count

  • 104

complete list of authors

  • Malinowski, DP||Belesky, DP

publication date

  • January 1999