Fungal endophyte effects on invasive Phragmites australis performance in field and growth chamber environments.
Manipulating plant microbiomes may provide control of invasive species. Invasive Phragmites australis has spread rapidly in North American wetlands, causing significant declines in native biodiversity. To test microbiome effects on host growth, we inoculated four common fungal endophytes into replicated Phragmites genotypes and monitored their growth in field and growth chamber environments. Inoculations were highly successful in the growth chamber but inoculated plants in the field were rapidly colonized by diverse endophytes from the local environment. There were significant genotype effects and minimal inoculation effects in both experiments with a significant inoculation × genotype interaction on tiller height in the field. Our results demonstrate that endophyte inoculation treatments are feasible, but repeated inoculations may be required to maintain high titer in plants subject to endophyte colonization from the local environment. Future studies should investigate a wider range of fungal endophytes to identify taxa that inhibit Phragmites and other invaders.