Forest nurseries in Sweden produce ca.
360 million seedlings of Pinus sylvestris
L. and Picea abies
(L.) Karst. annually. Fungi represent the largest microbial component in rhizospheres and may significantly affect health and, consequently, quality of the seedlings. The aim of this study was to assess fungi focusing on pathogens in roots and the sphagnum peat growth substrate of healthy-looking P. sylvestris
and P. abies
seedlings from nine forest nurseries situated in northern, central and southern regions of Sweden. We hypothesized that nursery stock and the growth substrate can provide a venue for dissemination of fungal diseases. In each nursery and for each tree species, 100 seedlings with the growth substrate were collected during the dormant period. DNA was isolated from parts of root systems and from samples of the growth substrate, amplified using internal transcribed spacer of rDNA as a marker and 454-sequenced. Clustering at 98.5% similarity of 169,844 high-quality sequences resulted in 619 non-singleton fungal taxa. Although results showed that management practices in forest nurseries generally give a healthy stock, latent establishment of pathogenic fungi in both roots and the growth substrate supported the hypothesis. Furthermore, seedling roots and the growth substrate were inhabited by distinct communities of fungi, and lifestyles of these fungi largely determined community segregation into particular ecological niche.
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