Multispecies interactions in the microbiome: dynamic responses of parasite individuals, populations, and communities.


Tall fescue is the most widely planted turf grass and one of the most important forage and fodder species for livestock. Tall fescue covers an estimated 1,000,000 acres of the state, with the annual economic value of improved pasture, unimproved pasture, and non-alfalfa hay totaling to over $250,000,000. The proposed research will benefit society at large. The focal parasites are some of the most economically important of pastures, turf grass, and small grain crops. It may provide insights into sustainable pest management.


Foliar fungal parasites provide a valuable model system for studying parasite community structure. First, they are tractable for observation. They are easily distinguished and enumerated in the field by the unaided eye, rather than requiring lab assay. Thus, each host can be surveyed quickly, reliably, and
repeatedly. Second, they are tractable for experimental manipulations that would be impractical or unethical with most parasites of vertebrate hosts. While they are sensitive to environmental variation, this does not prevent them from responding to small-scale manipulations of the host community.
Finally, while the microbiome of vertebrates is dominated by bacteria, the microbiome within leaves is dominated by fungi, making it a useful model for microbiome biology.


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Charles Mitchell, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Corbin Jones, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

James Umbanhowar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ignazio Carbone, North Carolina State University