, Volume 203, Issue 1, pp 37-46

Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) depends on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi for growth and P uptake at intermediate but not high soil P levels in the field

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The contribution of indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) to growth and phosphorus (P) uptake by oilseed flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) was examined in two field experiments covering soil P levels from 20–86 mg kg-1 NaHCO3-extractable P. The fumigant dazomet was applied to the soil in half of the plots to obtain control plants with reduced mycorrhiza formation. An extensive AMF colonization of up to 48% of the root length was established in untreated soil of both experiments, although P fertilization reduced colonization to 28–39% at the latest harvests. Fumigation markedly decreased or totally prevented AMF colonization throughout the experiments. Root growth responded to fumigation by increased total and specific root length. Shoot P uptake was decreased by fumigation at soil P levels lower than ca. 50 mg kg-1 whereas shoot growth was reduced by fumigation at soil P levels lower than ca. 40 mg kg-1. The effects of fumigation were ascribed to the suppression of mycorrhiza formation. The effect of the AMF increased with decreasing soil P levels. Phosphorus inflow through roots (based on shoot P uptake) was reduced more strongly by fumigation than total P uptake. The P inflow through fungal tissue in roots was estimated to 4 × 10-14 mol P cm-1 s-1. We conclude that AMF are essential to flax growth at soil P levels below ca. 40 mg P kg-1, which is representative of the conditions under which most flax is grown.