PloS one

The fungal fast lane: common mycorrhizal networks extend bioactive zones of allelochemicals in soils.

PMID 22110615


Allelopathy, a phenomenon where compounds produced by one plant limit the growth of surrounding plants, is a controversially discussed factor in plant-plant interactions with great significance for plant community structure. Common mycorrhizal networks (CMNs) form belowground networks that interconnect multiple plant species; yet these networks are typically ignored in studies of allelopathy. We tested the hypothesis that CMNs facilitate transport of allelochemicals from supplier to target plants, thereby affecting allelopathic interactions. We analyzed accumulation of a model allelopathic substance, the herbicide imazamox, and two allelopathic thiophenes released from Tagetes tenuifolia roots, by diffusion through soil and CMNs. We also conducted bioassays to determine how the accumulated substances affected plant growth. All compounds accumulated to greater levels in target soils with CMNs as opposed to soils without CMNs. This increased accumulation was associated with reduced growth of target plants in soils with CMNs. Our results show that CMNs support transfer of allelochemicals from supplier to target plants and thus lead to allelochemical accumulation at levels that could not be reached by diffusion through soil alone. We conclude that CMNs expand the bioactive zones of allelochemicals in natural environments, with significant implications for interspecies chemical interactions in plant communities.

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Imazamox, PESTANAL®, analytical standard