Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2015, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (12): 1188-1197.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0115

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Kin recognition in Setaria italica under the condition of root segregation

CHEN Qing-Qing1, LI De-Zhi1,2,3,*()   

  1. 1School of Ecological and Environmental Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
    2Key Laboratory of Urbanization and Ecological Restoration of Shanghai, Shanghai 200241, China
    and 3National Field Observation and Research Station in Tiantong Forest Ecosystem of Zhejiang, Shanghai 200241, China
  • Online:2015-12-31 Published:2015-12-01
  • Contact: De-Zhi LI
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors


Aims Kin recognition may play an important part in the performance and productivity of crop plants. However, so far, little is known about whether crop plants can recognize their kin neighbors. The aim of this study was to explore kin recognition in Setaria italica, and its responses to changes in environmental and biological conditions.Methods A field experiment was conducted in the suburb of Shanghai. Setaria italica grew with different neighbors (kin, non-kin and strangers), under the condition of root segregation and different plant densities (high and low) and soil nutrient levels (high and low), respectively. We investigated how neighbor identity and its interactions with plant density and soil nutrient level affected the morphology and biomass allocation of S. italica.Important findings Under the condition of root segregation, 1) Leaf biomass allocation and stem diameter of plants in the kin groups significantly decreased and increased, respectively, suggesting that plants of S. italica in the kin groups reduced inter-individual competition, and adapted to the local windy climate. 2) Compared with the non-kin groups, plants in the stranger groups significantly increased the biomass allocation to seeds, while plant height decreased significantly, suggesting that the plants of S. italica in the stranger groups may reduce the growth of their neighbors due to asymmetric competition (S. italica significantly increased height compared with the neighboring plants, Panicum miliaceum). Therefore, the S. italic plants in the stranger groups allocated more biomass to reproduction and increased fitness than those in non-kin groups. 3) Under the condition of high plant density, no significant differences were found in stem biomass and leaf biomass allocation of plants among different neighbor identity treatments. While under the condition of low plant density, compared with the non-kin groups, biomass allocation to stem and leaf in the kin groups significantly increased and decreased, respectively. As the plant density decreased, plants in the kin groups decreased leaf biomass allocation significantly, while plants in the non-kin and stranger groups did not show such a response. 4) Under the condition of low soil nutrient level, no significant difference was found in leaf biomass allocation between the kin and non-kin groups, while the ear length of plants in the kin groups decreased significantly. Under the condition of high soil nutrient level, the biomass allocated to leaves in the kin groups decreased significantly, while ear length increased significantly compared with the non-kin groups. Therefore, under the condition of root segregation, plants of S. italica showed the ability to recognize their kin neighbors, and the aboveground competitive cues may play important roles in the course of kin recognition in S. italica. Lower plant density and higher soil nutrient level may facilitate the ability of kin recognition in S. italica.

Key words: Setaria italica, competition, biomass allocation, kin recognition, kin selection, root segregation

Fig. 1

Diagram of experimental design. Blank box, kin group; Vertical bars box, non-kin group; Stripes box, stranger group. H, high soil nutrient level; L, low soil nutrient level. 10 and 16.7, plant spacing (cm). A, mixed seeds of Setaria italica; B, mixed seed of Panicum miliaceum."

Table 1

Analysis of covariance (using stem biomass as a covariate) for the morphology and biomass allocation of Setaria italica in response to neighbor identity (kin, non-kin or stranger neighbors) and its interaction with plant density (high or low) and soil nutrient level (high or low)"

Source of variation
D 1 129.80 0.000 0.32 0.573 15.66 0.000 12.15 0.001 13.98 0.000 5.42 0.022
SN 1 12.74 0.001 7.61 0.007 43.24 0.000 5.48 0.022 0.02 0.878 47.99 0.000
NI 2 10.82 0.000 5.76 0.004 4.53 0.013 0.19 0.828 5.54 0.005 0.32 0.725
D × SN 1 0.04 0.850 0.40 0.530 3.03 0.084 0.01 0.920 12.29 0.001 4.49 0.036
D × NI 2 3.53 0.032 4.15 0.018 0.68 0.508 0.20 0.817 2.42 0.093 0.84 0.432
SN × NI 2 0.35 0.708 6.72 0.002 1.76 0.176 0.97 0.382 2.59 0.079 4.76 0.010
D × SN × NI 2 0.19 0.828 3.63 0.029 2.27 0.107 0.40 0.669 1.75 0.177 3.78 0.026
STB 1 195.88 0.000 54.96 0.000 64.39 0.000 161.32 0.000 12.61 0.001

Fig. 2

Effects of neighbor identity on the morphology and biomass allocation of Setaria italica (mean ± SE). The traits (except for stem biomass) were predicted from the models with stem biomass as a covariate, by which the effects of the differences of stem biomass on trait means were accounted for. Different letters indicated significant differences among different treatments (p < 0.05, LSD)."

Fig. 3

Interaction effects of neighbor identity and plant density on the morphology and biomass allocation of Setaria italica (mean ± SE). The traits (except for stem biomass) were predicted from the models with stem biomass as a covariate, by which the effects of the differences of stem biomass on the trait means were accounted for. Different letters indicated significant differences among different treatments (p < 0.05, LSD)."

Fig. 4

Interaction effects of neighbor identity and soil nutrient level on the morphology and biomass allocation of Setaria italica (mean ± SE). The traits (except for stem biomass) were predicted from the models with stem biomass as a covariate, by which the effects of the differences of stem biomass on trait means were accounted for. Different letters indicated significant differences among different treatments (p < 0.05, LSD)."

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