, Volume 210, Issue 1, pp 33-42

Mycorrhizae, crop growth, and crop phosphorus nutrition in maize-soybean rotations given various tillage treatments

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Previously, tillage has been found to reduce early-season phosphorus (P) uptake from soil in continuous maize cropping systems. This reduced P uptake has often been associated with delayed colonization of roots by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Our aim was to determine if similar responses occur in maize-soybean rotations, which are more typical of current farming in Ontario, Canada. Similar responses were expected because both are AM crops, and the mechanism by which tillage reduces P uptake is thought to be a negative impact on the development of effective mycorrhizae. Simultaneous field experiments with either maize-soybean-maize or soybean-maize-soybean rotations were conducted in 1992–4. Treatments imposed were no-till (NT), ridge-tillage (RT), and conventional tillage using a moldboard plow (MP). In 1993, early-season dry mass of maize was similar among treatments, but colonization of maize roots by AM fungi and P uptake of maize were stimulated by NT and RT, compared with MP. In 1994, early growth was more rapid overall than in 1993, but it was reduced in the NT and RT treatments compared with MP for reasons not related to P. For soybean, AM colonization in NT and RT systems was higher than with MP, but P uptake was unchanged. As was found for maize in 1994, early-season shoot dry mass of soybean was higher in the MP treatment than with NT, but both in 1993 and 1994. We conclude that colonization of both maize and soybean by AM fungi is susceptible to slower development in tilled systems, and that for maize, stimulation of P uptake under reduced tillage can occur in rotations with soybean just as easily as it does with continuous maize. Taken with other studies, the data here suggest that responses to tillage of colonization of roots by AM fungi and of P uptake could apply to many cropping systems. The slow early-season shoot growth seen in some years in response to reduced tillage is discussed.