Pfleeger, T.G., and Mundt, C.C. 1998. Wheat leaf rust severity as affected by plant density and species proportion in simple communities of wheat and wild oats. Phytopathology 88:708-714.
While it is generally accepted that dense stands of plants exacerbate epidemics caused by foliar pathogens, there is little experimental evidence to support this view. We grew model plant communities consisting of wheat and wild oats at different densities and proportions and exposed these communities to Puccinia recondita to induce wheat leaf rust. Wild oats was included because it is a common competitor of wheat and may act as a barrier to dispersal of P. recondita spores among wheat plants. Disease severity was estimated as percent of wheat flag leaves covered by rust lesions. Seeding density rarely had a significant influence on rust severity, probably because of compensation due to increased tillering at low seeding densities. In contrast, increasing the proportion of wheat in mixtures with wild oats consistently increased wheat leaf rust severity. Regression parameters describing wheat leaf rust severity as a function of wheat seeding density did not differ significantly between pure wheat stands and wheat-wild oat mixtures and, thus, failed to support an effect of wild oats on wheat leaf rust other than through its competitive impact on wheat tiller density.