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Endophytes: a hidden aspect of insect-plant interactions

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Seminar
8 October 2013, 11am: Free
at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee DD2 5DA
for scientists, students and other interested parties
Alan Gange

Professor Alan Gange, Royal Holloway University of London will give a seminar entitled "Endophytes: a hidden aspect of insect-plant interactions" at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee. It will be broadcast live to the Aberdeen site.

Abstract

Endophyte fungi’ reside within the tissues of host plants while causing no visible signs of infection. In grasses, these fungi are well studied, because their presence can render infected plants resistant to herbivores. However, in forbs, their role is far less understood and their interactions with insects virtually unknown.

Alan will first describe the occurrence of endophytes in different species of forbs and show how fungal occurrence changes seasonally. Their relations with insects will then be examined, asking whether insects act as vectors of the fungi, whether herbivory can stimulate fungal growth within plants, and whether fungal presence affects insect feeding. His aim is to show that these hidden fungi may play a vital role in insect-plant interactions.

Biography

Alan is studying the multitrophic interactions which affect the diversity and structure of plant communities. The research focuses on the interactions between organisms from more than two trophic levels, in natural, semi-natural and managed plant assemblages. In particular, he is interested in how non-pathogenic fungi in plants affect the insect herbivores which also feed on those plants.

The two categories of fungi under investigation are root-inhabiting arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM fungi) and foliar endophytes. Natural plant communities include those regenerating from seedbanks on abandoned land such as that which has been taken out of agricultural production under the set-aside scheme. Semi-natural communities include areas where mixtures of wildflower seeds have been sown, in order to recreate species-rich meadows on land or on green roofs. Managed communities involve golf courses and football pitches, and the production of high-quality turfgrass.

The applications of his work are in the development of novel microbial methods for plant protection against pests and diseases, the biological control of weeds, and the conservation of very rare plants and insects.

The seminar is being hosted by Dr Alison Bennett.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.