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Response of Pratylenchus spp. in tall fescue infected with different strains of the fungal endophyte Neotyphodium coenophialum

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The presence of the fungal endophyte Neotyphodium coenophialum in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) confers resistance to some plant-parasitic nematodes but also results in the production of ergot alkaloids. Recently, new strains of N. coenophialum have been isolated from wild tall fescue and artificially inoculated into elite tall fescue cultivars. These strains produce low to nil levels of ergot alkaloids and are referred to as non-ergot strains. Our objective was to determine whether non-ergot strains of the endophyte confer the same level of resistance to Pratylenchus spp. as the endemic strain in tall fescue. In a glasshouse experiment, nematode resistance was compared in two fescue cultivars (Jesup and Georgia 5) infected with either the endemic strain (E+), or two non-ergot strains, AR542 and AR584. An additional non-ergot strain, AR514, was tested only in cv. Jesup. Cultivars Georgia 5 and Jesup without endophytes (E) were used as controls. The endophtye status of the plants was confirmed and then three plants per cultivar/endophyte combination were transplanted into 10 cm square pots. The pots were inoculated with a mixed culture of Pratylenchus zeae and P. scribneri in the first trial and a pure culture of P. scribneri in the second trial of the experiment. After 8 weeks, the number of nematodes within the roots from each pot was determined. Numbers of Pratylenchus spp. in either cv. Georgia 5 or cv. Jesup containing the non-ergot strain AR542 were not different from numbers in E plants. AR514 also did not confer resistance to the nematodes in cv. Jesup. By contrast, the non-ergot strain AR584 appears to confer resistance to Pratylenchus spp. in cv. Georgia 5, but not in cv. Jesup; however, the level of resistance in cv. Georgia 5 was less than the resistance conferred by the endemic endophyte. Genetic differences between the two tall fescue cultivars may affect growth of the endophyte or production of a nematode toxin or deterrent by the endophyte. As only a small subset of endophyte strains has been tested, we are screening additional non-ergot strains for resistance to P. scribneri.


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