Litter Effects on Seed-Pathogen Interactions




Plant litter is organic debris left from previous production years. It affects seedling emergence and establishment through its effects on water availablity, and we reasoned that it might also impact disease levels in the cheatgrass seed bank.

Katie taking a ring sample

Katie takes a ring sample, which includes a soil profile, with seeds and litter


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What it's about

What we found out

What we did

We have conducted studies to understand whether litter is a source of inoculum, whether increasing litter depth increases the probability of disease, and whether there is a correlation between litter depth and density of killed seeds in the field.

Our studies show that litter can be a source of inoculum even when surface-sterilized, showing that the pathogen can grow inside vegetative tissues and not just in seeds. Litter increases the probability of disease, and densities of field-killed seeds are positively correlated with litter depth.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Julie Beckstead
Students:  Brian Connolly, Lauren Miller