Pest management challenges and climate change in water limited winter wheat agroecosystems in southwestern Montana

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Dryland winter wheat production is influenced by many environmental factors including climate, disease, and resource availability. In Montana, Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) and Fusarium pseudograminearum (a fungus causing root crown rot) are major winter wheat pests; reducing yield and grain quality. However, little is known how climate change and resource availability impact winter wheat, B. tectorum, and F. pseudograminearum individually as well as their multi-trophic interactions. Thus, this research aimed to 1) Determine the susceptibility of B. tectorum to F. pseudograminearum and assess how CO 2 and nitrogen impact their growth, and 2) Evaluate how elevated temperature, reduced precipitation, and plant competition impact winter wheat and B. tectorum growth and reproduction. Utilizing growth chambers, high and low nitrogen treatments, fungal inoculated and uninoculated treatments, and ambient and elevated CO 2 treatments, Bromus tectorum was found to be a host of F. pseudograminearum, and the fungus significantly reduced root, shoot and total biomass, as well as primary physiological processes of B. tectorum. Fusarium pseudograminearum infection was not impacted by nitrogen or CO 2 level. Low nitrogen increased emergence and root production early on, while high nitrogen increased shoot production at later growth stages. Low nitrogen also improved stomatal conductance and transpiration rate. High CO 2 increased B. tectorum root, shoot, and biomass production, as well as intercellular CO 2. An interaction between ambient CO 2 and low nitrogen resulted in the greatest shoot relative growth rate between the first and second harvest. Field tests, using three climate treatments (ambient, increased temperature, reduced precipitation with increased temperature) and three plant competition levels (monoculture winter wheat, monoculture B. tectorum, and biculture of the two), found that for both winter wheat and B. tectorum monocultures, ambient and warmer climates produced similar yields and biomass, respectively, whereas the drier with warmer treatment reduced these factors. Additionally, B. tectorum presence increased winter wheat grain protein. A quadratic interaction model of winter wheat yield as a function of B. tectorum biomass by climate treatment suggests that at low to moderate B. tectorum biomass levels, winter wheat yield was negatively impacted by the warmer and drier treatment, whereas ambient and warmer treatment results were similar.




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