The Effect of Altered Soil Moisture on Hybridization Rate in a Crop-Wild System (Raphanus spp.)
Since plant mating choices are flexible and responsive to the environment, rates of spontaneous hybridization may vary across ecological clines. Developing a robust and predictive framework for rates of plant gene flow requires assessing the role of environmental sensitivity on plant reproductive traits, relative abundance, and pollen vectors. Therefore, across a soil moisture gradient, we quantified pollinator movement, life-history trait variation, and unidirectional hybridization rates from crop (Raphanus sativus) to wild (Raphanus raphanistrum) radish populations. Both radish species were grown together in relatively dry (no rain), relatively wet (double rain), or control soil moisture conditions in Ohio, USA. We measured wild and crop radish life-history, phenology and pollinator visitation patterns. To quantify hybridization rates from crop-to-wild species, we used a simply inherited morphological marker to detect F1 hybrid progeny. Although crop-to-wild hybridization did not respond to watering treatments, the abundance of hybrid offspring was higher in fruits produced late in the period of phenological overlap, when both species had roughly equal numbers of open flowers. Therefore, the timing of fruit production and its relationship to flowering overlap may be more important to hybrid zone formation in Raphanus spp. than soil moisture or pollen vector movements.