The rose of an isolate of the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungusGlomus mosseae in the protection ofMedicago sativa (+Rhizobium meliloti) against salt stress induced by the addition of increasing levels of soluble salts was studied. The interactions between soluble P in soil (four levels), mycorrhizal inoculum and degree of salinity in relation to plant growth, nutrition and infective parameters were evaluated. Salt stress was induced by sequential irrigation with saline water having four concentrations of three salts (NaCl, CaCl2, and MgCl2).15N-labelled ammonium sulphate was added to provide a quantitative estimate of N2 fixation under moderate to high salinity levels. N and P concentration and nodule formation increased with the amount of plant-available P or mycorrhizal inoculum in the soil and generally declined as the salinity in the solution culture increased from a moderate to a high level. The mycorrhizal inoculation protected the plants from salt stress more efficiently than any amount of plant-available P in soil, particularly at the highest salinity level applied (43.5 dS m−1). Mycorrhizal inoculation matched the effect on dry matter and nutrition of the addition in the soil of 150 mg P kg−1. Nevertheless the highest saline solution assayed (43.5 dS m−1) affected more severely plants supplemented with phosphorus than those with the addition of mycorrhizal inoculum. Such a saline-depressing effect was 1.5 (biomass), 1.4 (N) and 1.5 (P) times higher in plants supplied with soluble phosphate than with AM inoculum. Mechanisms beyond those mediated by P must be involved in the AM-protectioe effect against salinity. The15N methodology used allowed the determination of N2 fixation as influenced by different P applications compared to mycorrhizal inoculation. A lack of correlation between nodule formation and function (N2 fixation) was evidenced in mycorrhizal-inoculated plants. In spite of the reduced activity per nodule in mycorrhizal-inoculated In spite of the reduced activity per nodule in mycorrhizal-inoculated plants, the N contents determined indicated the highest acquisition of N occurred in plants with the symbiotic status. Moreover, N and P uptake increased while Ca and Mg decreased in AM-inoculated plants. Thus P/Ca ratios and cation/anion balance in general were altered in mycorrhizal treatments. This study therefore confirms previous findings that AM-colonized plants have optional and alternative mechanisms available to satisfy their nutritive requirements and to maintain their physiological status in stress situations and in disturbed ecosystems.
Arbuscular mycorrhizaSalt toleranteN2 fixation15N-labelled fertilizersGlomus mosseaeMedicago sativaRhizobium melilotiSoluble P