The effects of light and other abiotic stresses on growth and photosynthesis of hemiparasitic plants

Antragsteller: Peter Lyko
Projektbeteiligte: Peter Lyko
Fachbereich, Studienrichtung: Biologie, Institut für Evolution und Biodiversität
Projekttitel: The effects of light and other abiotic stresses on growth and photosynthesis of hemiparasitic plants
Fördersumme: 1.960,00 Euro
Kontakt: Peter Lyko


Despite plant being primarily photoautotrophic, gaining their energy through photosynthesis from the sun, around 1% of all plant species are also parasitic and as such drain resources like water, minerals, and/or organic carbon from other plants or fungi. These parasitic plants can have a devastating effect on agriculture worldwide, because many crop species are among the parasities' preferred hosts. So-called hemiparasitic plants retain the ability for photosynthesis themselves, which allows them to complement their energy resources from their own photosynthesis with host derived nutrients. However, the conditions under which these species favor parasitism over a photoautotrophic lifestyle as well as the mechanisms by which this dualism is regulated are still unclear.

Using as model plants the species Rhinanthus minor and Cuscuta compestris - two hemiparasities of very different origin and habitus - this project aimed to assess the effects of abiotic factors on the degree of autotrophic nutrient supply in hemiparasites, most notably the effects on photosynthesis. Hereby, this project mainly focused on the effects of low light intensity and low nitrogen availability.

The research was presented at the biennial International Conference of Plant Sciences in Kiel in September 2017 and very positively acknowledged. I was able not only to gain new insights and new contacts in the field of botany but also to get valuable feedback about the project in particular during the presentation.

I was generously provided with greenhouse space in the greenhouses of the faculty of biology, as well as with seeds for host plants from the botanical garden Münster, which I would like to gratefully acknowledge. Although the parasites proved difficult to grow in a greenhouse and common garden setting, I was able to establish several cultures for the host plants. Optimizing growth conditions for the host plants prevented me from performing the originally planned photosynthesis measurements on the hemiparasitic plants within the allocated project duration. However, the results regarding the adequate parasite-host co-culture conditions provide a valuable framework for the research of hemiparasitic plants in the future, which I plan to pursue and develop further during my nowstarted PhD program.