Switchgrass and Rain Research

How do rain microbes affect leaf microbial communities? 

Leaves of plants are one of the most abundant biotic landscapes for microbes to colonize and live upon. These microbes that live on the leaf landscape (aka phyllosphere) can alter plants response to droughts, herbivory, pathogens, and even gas exchange with the atmosphere. A big question is where are these microbes coming from.

Bins used to capture rain events at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biofuel Cropping System Experiment (BCSE).

My work with Sarah Evans is focused on rain as a potential source of this unique microbial community. I have been focusing on the fungal community because of their large spore size which leads to possible dispersal limitations. In addition, fungi tend to be most active during warm wet condition which makes rain both an ideal transport mechanism, because it can transport larger particles than wind, and provides the conditions, because it is wet, for the fungi to colonize and establish in the phyllosphere. We found that rain, integrator of wet and dry deposition, was a major source of functionally diverse leaf endophytes.

Bell-Dereske, L. P., and Evans, S. E. 2021. Contributions of environmental and maternal transmission to the assembly of leaf fungal endophyte communities. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 288:20210621.

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