Chestnuts bred for blight resistance depart nursery with distinct fungal rhizobiomes
Restoration of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is underway using backcross breeding that confers chestnut blight disease resistance from Asian chestnuts (most often Castanea mollissima) to the susceptible host. Successful restoration will depend on blight resistance and performance of hybrid seedlings, which can be impacted by below-ground fungal communities. We compared fungal communities in roots and rhizospheres (rhizobiomes) of nursery-grown, 1-year-old chestnut seedlings from different genetic families of American chestnut, Chinese chestnut, and hybrids from backcross breeding generations as well as those present in the nursery soil.We specifically focused on the ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungi that may facilitate host performance in the nursery and aid in seedling establishment after outplanting. Seedling rhizobiomes and nursery soil communities were distinct and seedlings recruited heterogeneous communities from shared nursery soil. The rhizobiomes included EcM fungi as well as endophytes, putative pathogens, and likely saprobes, but their relative proportions varied widely within and among the chestnut families. Notably, hybrid seedlings that hosted few EcM fungi hosted a large proportion of potential pathogens and endophytes, with possible consequences in outplanting success. Our data show that chestnut seedlings recruit divergent rhizobiomes and depart nurseries with communities that may facilitate or compromise the seedling performance in the field.