Start Date: 2011
End Date: 2011
Associated with the KU Field Station: Yes
This study investigated the ecological role of plant viruses in grassland communities with a focus on Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), an important C4 prairie grass. This species is planted widely (e.g., prairie restorations, Conservation Reserve Program land) and was being seriously discussed for biofuel applications. The research had two major thrusts: 1) experiments to explore the effect of viruses on switchgrass survival, growth, and reproduction, and 2) landscape-level surveys to study the prevalence and variability of viruses in grasslands across eastern Kansas. The work contributed to a larger understanding of the role of pathogens in ecology and evolution and to studies of the agricultural/natural systems interface. Additional collaboration with researchers at Ohio State University (Hsiaochi Chang and Dr. Allison Snow) looked at landscape-level genetic interactions between cultivated and native switchgrass.