Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    Niche theory predicts that when two species exhibit major niche overlap, one will eventually be eliminated through competitive exclusion. Thus, some degree of niche specialization is required to facilitate coexistence. We examined whether two important seed bank pathogens on the invasive winter annual grass Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass, downy brome) exhibit niche specialization. These pathogens utilize seed resources in complementary ways. Pyrenophora semeniperda is specialized to attack dormant seeds. It penetrates directly through the seed coverings. Hyphae ramify first through the endosperm and then throughout the seed. Seed death results as the embryo is consumed. In contrast, the Fusarium seed rot pathogen (Fusarium sp.) is specialized to attack non-dormant seeds in the early stages of germination. It cannot penetrate seed coverings directly. Instead, it responds to a cue emanating from the radicle end with directional hyphal growth and subsequent penetration at the point of radicle emergence, causing seed death. Non-dormant seeds usually escape P. semeniperda through germination even if infected because it develops more slowly than Fusarium. When water stress slows non-dormant seed germination, both P. semeniperda and Fusarium can attack and cause seed mortality more effectively. The Fusarium seed rot pathogen can sometimes reach epidemic levels and may result in B. tectorum stand failure (‘die-off’). Stands usually re-establish from the persistent seed bank, but if P. semeniperda has also reached high levels and eliminated the seed bank, a die-off can persist indefinitely.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Meyer, Susan E.; Beckstead, Julie; Allen, Phil S. 2018. Niche specialization in Bromus tectorum seed bank pathogens. Seed Science Research. doi: 10.1017/S0960258518000193.


    Google Scholar


    cheatgrass, die-off, Fusarium seed rot pathogen, Pyrenophora semeniperda, seed dormancy, stand failure, water stress

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page