PREMISE OF STUDY: Studies over the past 25 years have shown that environmental stresses adversely affect male function, including pollen production and pollen performance (germination and pollen tube growth rate). Consequently, genetic variation among plants in resistance to a stress has the potential to impact pollen donation to conspecifics and, if deposited onto a stigma, the ability of the pollen to achieve fertilization. We examined the effects of a nonlethal virus epidemic on pollen production and pollen performance in a population of susceptible and resistant (transgenic) wild squash (Cucurbita pepo subsp. texana). METHODS: We grew 135 susceptible and 45 virus-resistant wild squash plants in each of two 0.4-ha fields, initiated a zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV) epidemic, and recorded staminate and pistillate flower production per plant over the field season and the total number of mature fruit. We also assessed pollen production per flower on ZYMV-infected and non-infected plants and the ability of pollen from flowers on infected and non-infected plants to achieve fertilization under competitive conditions. KEY RESULTS: ZYMV infection reduced flower and fruit production per plant and pollen production per flower. Pollen from infected plants was also less likely to sire a seed under competitive conditions. CONCLUSIONS: ZYMV infection adversely impacts the amount of pollen that can be donated to conspecifics, and pollen competition within the styles increases the probability that the ovules are fertilized by pollen from plants that are thriving when challenged by a viral disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science