1 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, SDU2 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, SDU
Thymus vulgaris is a dominating component of the Mediterranean garrigue vegetation. It produces aromatic oil, containing monoterpenes, which affects the performance (growth, survival) of other plants, and microorganisms. Annual plant species of the genus Medicago are commonly found in Mediterranean thyme communities; in fact they often grow very close to thyme plants (within 1 square meter). Medicago has a symbiosis with the nitrogen fixing bacteria Sinorhizobium meliloti – which is essential for nitrogen uptake in the nutrient poor garrigue. The aim of this study was to examine 1) if Medicago shows patterns of adaptation to its thyme neighbor, and 2) if any adaptive response was dependent on the rhizobium, and whether the rhizobium was either "experienced" or "naive" with respect to thyme monoterpenes. Using a G*G*E design, the fitness of 13 genotypes of Medicago truncatula was tested. Of these genotypes, 7 were ”experienced”, and 6 were ”naive” to thyme. All genotypes were grown on soil either amended with thyme monoterpene or not. In addition, each plant received a rhizobium treatment, which was either: no rhizobium, a mix of thyme experienced Sinorhizobium genotypes, or a mix of thyme naive Sinorhizobium. The experiment was carried out as a fully factorial design. As a fitness parameter, number of offspring (pods) were counted after harvest. The results showed a large effect of Medicago genotype on plant fitness. Thyme naive rhizobium overall had a more positive effect on plant fitness than thyme experienced ones, irrespective of whether the soil was amended with thyme oil or not. Furthermore, there was a small, but significant difference in Medicago fitness between naive and experienced plant genotypes on soil amended with thyme oil. Thyme experienced Medicago genotypes performed better on thyme soil than thyme naive ones. Further results will be presented at the meeting.