Most non-native domesticated plants provide benefits without escaping cultivation, but others have become prominent invaders. A better understanding of how domestication might alter plant traits that influence the ability of species to overcome barriers to invasion could improve invasion risk predictions. We explored how variation in foliar chemistry among cultivars of a widespread invader in the U.S. (Lespedeza cuneata) might influence invasion risk through differences in herbivore interactions and a potential tradeoff with competitive ability. In a no-choice feeding bioassay a generalist herbivore performed better when fed cultivars compared to wild genotypes and native congeners, suggesting domesticated L. cuneata may be more vulnerable to herbivory compared to wild genotypes. However, in a factorial greenhouse experiment, with treatments of herbivory and competition, all cultivars had similar seed and biomass production as the wild genotype. Competition with native species reduced productivity of all L. cuneata types, while experimental herbivory alone did not. We also found far less variation in foliar chemistry among L. cuneata types than expected based on domestication history. While our findings from the bioassay suggest potentially lower invasion risk for cultivars if herbivore populations expand more rapidly when feeding on cultivars, we did not find evidence that cultivars had different responses to herbivory or competition with native species in the greenhouse experiment. Altogether, the findings from our multi-pronged approach for evaluating potential factors underlying invasion success of a domesticated species indicate that domestication has not altered invasion risk of this widespread plant invader.
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We thank Doria Gordon, Christina Romagosa, Amy Kendig, Susan Canavan, and Jesse Borden for advice on experimental design and interpretation of results, and Gregory Houseman for supplying wild genotype seeds. The University of Florida (UF) Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, The UF School of Natural Resources and Environment, and the UF/IFAS Dean for Research provided funding. We also thank May Zhou, Mily Gandhi, Taylor Clark, Jessica Williams, and Peter Gianelli for assistance with field work.
The funding was provide by University of Florida (UF) Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants: S. Luke Flory. The UF School of Natural Resources and Environment: Tabitha Petri. UF/IFAS Dean for Research: Deah Lieurance.
Conflict of interests
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study evaluated how domestication might alter invasion risk of species, by testing if trait changes from crop breeding provided benefits or hinderances to cultivars when they were subjected to herbivory and competition with native species. The results show that cultivars and wild biotypes of a non-native legume do not respond differently to experimental treatments, suggesting that putative cultivar trait differences may not be expressed in the field. This approach for experimentally evaluating potential invasion mechanisms of domesticated plants can inform risk prediction, without chancing escape into natural areas.
Communicated by Casey P. terHorst.
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Petri, T., Rehill, B., Lieurance, D. et al. Domestication does not alter invasion risk of a non-native legume. Oecologia (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-021-04866-2
- Lespedeza cuneata
- Spodoptera frugiperda