|A long‐term study of burning effects on a plant pathogen in tallgrass prairie
|Year of Publication
|Dendy, SP, Tong, B, Alexander, HA, Fay, PA, Murray, L, Xing, Y, Garrett, KA
|Tallgrass prairie species have evolved with regular exposure to fire. Yet burning has been used as a management tool for reducing plant disease in agricultural systems, posing the question of how plant pathogens of tallgrass prairie will be affected by burning. We studied the rust fungus Puccinia dioicae infecting Erigeron strigosus (Asteraceae) for eight years in long-term experiments to evaluate burning effects in native tallgrass prairie. This experiment also allowed evaluation of the effects of nutrient additions, although E. strigosus was rare in the nutrient addition plots in most years. Burning reduced rust severity in most years. Effects of nutrient additions were rarely observed. There was high inter-annual variation in rust severity within a location, suggesting that weather may be the most important of these three abiotic factors in determining infection. An analysis of weather variables associated with disease severity found that solar radiation in the month prior to sampling was associated with severity in unburned plots; temperature approximately two months prior to sampling was associated with severity in burned plots. High inter-annual variation also suggests that the effects of this pathogen on its host would be sporadic and difficult to study in short-term experiments.