skip to main content

Title: Seasonal Dynamics of Core Fungi in the Switchgrass Phyllosphere, and Co-Occurrence with Leaf Bacteria
Plant leaves harbor complex microbial communities that influence plant health and productivity. Nevertheless, a detailed understanding of phyllosphere community assembly and drivers is needed, particularly for phyllosphere fungi. Here, we investigated seasonal dynamics of epiphytic phyllosphere fungal communities in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), a focal bioenergy crop. We also leverage previously published data on switchgrass phyllosphere bacterial communities from the same experimental plants, allowing us to compare fungal and bacterial dynamics and explore interdomain network associations in the switchgrass phyllosphere. Overall, we found a strong impact of sampling date on fungal community composition, with multiple taxonomic levels exhibiting clear temporal patterns in relative abundance. In addition, leaf nitrogen concentration, leaf dry matter content, plant height, and minimum daily air temperature explained significant variation in phyllosphere fungal communities, likely due to their correlation with sampling date. Finally, among the core taxa, fungi–bacteria network associations were much more common than bacteria–bacteria associations, suggesting the importance of interdomain phylogenetic diversity in microbiome assembly. Although our findings highlight the complexity of phyllosphere microbiome assembly, the clear temporal patterns in lineage-specific fungal abundances give promise to the potential for accurately predicting shifts in fungal phyllosphere communities throughout the growing season, a key research priority for sustainable agriculture. [Formula: see text] Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license .  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Phytobiomes Journal
Page Range / eLocation ID:
60 to 68
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background

    Root and soil microbial communities constitute the below-ground plant microbiome, are drivers of nutrient cycling, and affect plant productivity. However, our understanding of their spatiotemporal patterns is confounded by exogenous factors that covary spatially, such as changes in host plant species, climate, and edaphic factors. These spatiotemporal patterns likely differ across microbiome domains (bacteria and fungi) and niches (root vs. soil).


    To capture spatial patterns at a regional scale, we sampled the below-ground microbiome of switchgrass monocultures of five sites spanning > 3 degrees of latitude within the Great Lakes region. To capture temporal patterns, we sampled the below-ground microbiome across the growing season within a single site. We compared the strength of spatiotemporal factors to nitrogen addition determining the major drivers in our perennial cropping system. All microbial communities were most strongly structured by sampling site, though collection date also had strong effects; in contrast, nitrogen addition had little to no effect on communities. Though all microbial communities were found to have significant spatiotemporal patterns, sampling site and collection date better explained bacterial than fungal community structure, which appeared more defined by stochastic processes. Root communities, especially bacterial, were more temporally structured than soil communities which were more spatially structured, both across and within sampling sites. Finally, we characterized a core set of taxa in the switchgrass microbiome that persists across space and time. These core taxa represented < 6% of total species richness but > 27% of relative abundance, with potential nitrogen fixing bacteria and fungal mutualists dominating the root community and saprotrophs dominating the soil community.


    Our results highlight the dynamic variability of plant microbiome composition and assembly across space and time, even within a single variety of a plant species. Root and soil fungal community compositions appeared spatiotemporally paired, while root and soil bacterial communities showed a temporal lag in compositional similarity suggesting active recruitment of soil bacteria into the root niche throughout the growing season. A better understanding of the drivers of these differential responses to space and time may improve our ability to predict microbial community structure and function under novel conditions.

    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Microbial communities help plants access nutrients and tolerate stress. Some microbiomes are specific to plant genotypes and, therefore, may contribute to intraspecific differences in plant growth and be a promising target for plant breeding. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a potential bioenergy crop with broad variation in yields and environmental responses; recent studies suggest that associations with distinct microbiomes may contribute to variation in cultivar yields. We used a common garden experiment to investigate variation in 12 mature switchgrass cultivar soil microbiomes and, furthermore, to examine how root traits and soil conditions influence microbiome structure. We found that average root diameter varied up to 33% among cultivars and that the cultivars also associated with distinct soil microbiomes. Cultivar had a larger effect on the soil bacterial than fungal community but both were strongly influenced by soil properties. Root traits had a weaker effect on microbiome structure but root length contributed to variation in the fungal community. Unlike the soil communities, the root bacterial communities did not group by cultivar, based on a subset of samples. Microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen and the abundance of several dominant bacterial phyla varied between ecotypes but overall the differences in soil microbiomes were greater among cultivars than between ecotypes. Our findings show that there is not one soil microbiome that applies to all switchgrass cultivars, or even to each ecotype. These subtle but significant differences in root traits, microbial biomass, and the abundance of certain soil bacteria could explain differences in cultivar yields and environmental responses. 
    more » « less
  3. Summary

    Water and nutrient acquisition are key drivers of plant health and ecosystem function. These factors impact plant physiology directly as well as indirectly through soil‐ and root‐associated microbial responses, but how they in turn affect aboveground plant–microbe interactions are not known.

    Through experimental manipulations in the field and growth chamber, we examine the interacting effects of water stress, soil fertility, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on bacterial and fungal communities of the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) phyllosphere.

    Both water stress and mycorrhizal disruption reduced leaf bacterial richness, homogenized bacterial community composition among plants, and reduced the relative abundance of dominant fungal taxa. We observed striking parallelism in the individual microbial taxa in the phyllosphere affected by irrigation and mycorrhizal associations.

    Our results show that soil conditions and belowground interactions can shape aboveground microbial communities, with important potential implications for plant health and sustainable agriculture.

    more » « less
  4. Phyllosphere exudates create specialized microhabitats that shape microbial community diversity. We explored the microbiome associated with two sorghum phyllosphere exudates, the epicuticular wax and aerial root mucilage. We assessed the microbiome associated with the wax from sorghum plants over two growth stages, and the root mucilage additionally from nitrogen-fertilized and nonfertilized plants. In parallel, we isolated and characterized hundreds of bacteria from wax and mucilage, and integrated data from cultivation-independent and cultivation-dependent approaches to gain insights into exudate diversity and bacterial phenotypes. We found that Sphingomonadaceae and Rhizobiaceae families were the major taxa in the wax regardless of water availability and plant developmental stage to plants. The cultivation-independent mucilage-associated bacterial microbiome contained the families Erwiniaceae, Flavobacteriaceae, Rhizobiaceae, Pseudomonadaceae, and Sphingomonadaceae, and its structure was strongly influenced by sorghum development but only modestly influenced by fertilization. In contrast, the fungal community structure of mucilage was strongly affected by the year of sampling but not by fertilization or plant developmental stage, suggesting a decoupling of fungal–bacterial dynamics in the mucilage. Our bacterial isolate collection from wax and mucilage had several isolates that matched 100% to detected amplicon sequence variants, and were enriched on media that selected for phenotypes that included phosphate solubilization, putative diazotrophy, resistance to desiccation, capability to grow on methanol as a carbon source, and ability to grow in the presence of linalool and β-caryophyllene (terpenes in sorghum wax). This work expands our understanding of the microbiome of phyllosphere exudates and supports our long-term goal to translate microbiome research to support sorghum cultivation. 
    more » « less
  5. Raina, Jean-Baptiste (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Predicting outcomes of marine disease outbreaks presents a challenge in the face of both global and local stressors. Host-associated microbiomes may play important roles in disease dynamics but remain understudied in marine ecosystems. Host–pathogen–microbiome interactions can vary across host ranges, gradients of disease, and temperature; studying these relationships may aid our ability to forecast disease dynamics. Eelgrass, Zostera marina , is impacted by outbreaks of wasting disease caused by the opportunistic pathogen Labyrinthula zosterae . We investigated how Z. marina phyllosphere microbial communities vary with rising wasting disease lesion prevalence and severity relative to plant and meadow characteristics like shoot density, longest leaf length, and temperature across 23° latitude in the Northeastern Pacific. We detected effects of geography (11%) and smaller, but distinct, effects of temperature (30-day max sea surface temperature, 4%) and disease (lesion prevalence, 3%) on microbiome composition. Declines in alpha diversity on asymptomatic tissue occurred with rising wasting disease prevalence within meadows. However, no change in microbiome variability (dispersion) was detected between asymptomatic and symptomatic tissues. Further, we identified members of Cellvibrionaceae, Colwelliaceae, and Granulosicoccaceae on asymptomatic tissue that are predictive of wasting disease prevalence across the geographic range (3,100 kilometers). Functional roles of Colwelliaceae and Granulosicoccaceae are not known. Cellvibrionaceae, degraders of plant cellulose, were also enriched in lesions and adjacent green tissue relative to nonlesioned leaves. Cellvibrionaceae may play important roles in disease progression by degrading host tissues or overwhelming plant immune responses. Thus, inclusion of microbiomes in wasting disease studies may improve our ability to understand variable rates of infection, disease progression, and plant survival. IMPORTANCE The roles of marine microbiomes in disease remain poorly understood due, in part, to the challenging nature of sampling at appropriate spatiotemporal scales and across natural gradients of disease throughout host ranges. This is especially true for marine vascular plants like eelgrass ( Zostera marina ) that are vital for ecosystem function and biodiversity but are susceptible to rapid decline and die-off from pathogens like eukaryotic slime-mold Labyrinthula zosterae (wasting disease). We link bacterial members of phyllosphere tissues to the prevalence of wasting disease across the broadest geographic range to date for a marine plant microbiome-disease study (3,100 km). We identify Cellvibrionaceae, plant cell wall degraders, enriched (up to 61% relative abundance) within lesion tissue, which suggests this group may be playing important roles in disease progression. These findings suggest inclusion of microbiomes in marine disease studies will improve our ability to predict ecological outcomes of infection across variable landscapes spanning thousands of kilometers. 
    more » « less