Beneficial soil microbes can enhance plant growth and defense, but the extent to which this occurs depends on the availability of resources, such as water and nutrients. However, relatively little is known about the role of light quality, which is altered during shading, resulting a low red: far-red ratio (R:FR) of light. We examined how low R:FR light influences arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF)-mediated changes in plant growth and defense using Solanum lycopersicum (tomato) and the insect herbivore Chrysodeixis chalcites. We also examined effects on third trophic level interactions with the parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris. Under low R:FR light, non-mycorrhizal plants activated the shade avoidance syndrome (SAS), resulting in enhanced biomass production. However, mycorrhizal inoculation decreased stem elongation in shaded plants, thus counteracting the plant’s SAS response to shading. Unexpectedly, activation of SAS under low R:FR light did not increase plant susceptibility to the herbivore in either non-mycorrhizal or mycorrhizal plants. AMF did not significantly affect survival or growth of caterpillars and parasitoids but suppressed herbivore-induced expression of jasmonic acid-signaled defenses genes under low R:FR light. These results highlight the context-dependency of AMF effects on plant growth and defense and the potentially adverse effects of AMF under shading.
- Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
- Context dependency
- Light quality
- Plant defense
- Plant microbe insect interactions
- Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)