I did my MSc internship at the department of Terrestrial Ecology, NIOO where I looked at the composition of fungi that inhabit the roots of the plant Senecio Jacobaea. This is an invasive plant species widely distributed throughout the world.
The plant contains high concentrations of toxic metabolites which are hazardous for mammals and insects. Due to these properties the plant is extensively studied, but little is known about the interactions of this plant with soil microbes. Different molecular techniques were used to examine presence of different fungal species in the roots. Fungi from the roots were isolated, sequenced and identified, and with T-RFLP (fingerprint technique) I examined which fungi were present in plant roots collected from a series of old-fields that differed in time since cessation of agricultural practices. Both mutualistic and pathogenic fungi were found. The composition of the fungal community different between fields. The presence of certain fungi increased with the age of the field (time since land abandonment) and was related to the size of the plant.
Gerard Dikken, ecology student, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam