Impact of the facultative parasitic weed Rhamphicarpa fistulosa (Hochst.) Benth. on photosynthesis of its host Oryza sativa L

J Plant Physiol. 2021 Jul;262:153438. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2021.153438. Epub 2021 May 17.


Rhamphicarpa fistulosa is a facultative root parasitic annual forb, of the family Orobanchaceae that is native to sub-Saharan Africa. Parasitism results in yield reductions by the host plants but it is not known how exactly R. fistulosa affects its host or how the host responds physiologically. In three pot experiments, we investigated whether and when the parasite affects photosynthesis of rice, whether the level of impact was parasite density dependent and explored mechanisms underlying the response of rice photosynthesis to parasitism. Photosynthesis and related parameters were measured at a range of light use intensities. Host photosynthesis was negatively affected while light use efficiency was negatively affected only later on in the growth process. Except for dark respiration rates, which were never affected by parasite infection, suppression of host photosynthesis at light saturation, the initial light-use efficiency, chlorophyll content, specific leaf area and shoot weight were parasite density dependent with a stronger effect for higher parasite densities. Only at 56 days after sowing, the slope of the linear relationship between light adapted quantum efficiency of PSII electron transport (ΦPSII) and the quantum yield of CO2 assimilation (ΦCO2) of infected plants was less than those of un-infected plants. There was a considerable time lag between the parasite's acquisition of benefits from the association, in terms of growth (previously observed around 42 DAS), and the reduction of host photosynthesis (around 56 DAS). Expression of relative reductions in host growth rates started at the same time as the relative suppression of host photosynthesis. This indicated that R. fistulosa affects host growth by first extracting assimilates and making considerable gains in growth, before impacting host photosynthesis and growth.

Keywords: CO(2) assimilation; Parasitic plants; Quantum yield; Rice; Rice vampireweed; Stomatal conductance.

MeSH terms

  • Chlorophyll / metabolism
  • Orobanchaceae / metabolism*
  • Oryza / metabolism
  • Oryza / parasitology*
  • Oryza / physiology
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / physiology


  • Chlorophyll