Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in low input agriculture

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The features of various types of European farming systems have recently been reviewed by Atkinson and Watson (2000) and Tinker (2000). Atkinson and Watson (2000) suggested that systems varying from intensive arable through IPM/ICM (integrated pest management/integrated crop management) and mixed farming to organic could be regarded as a gradation in which the importance of minimal environmental impact and of the management of crop and soil ecological processes increased (Tab. 1). Conventional high input agricultural systems tend to be dominated by simple, usually linear, management models. Here the identification of a limitation in nutrient supply is followed by the application of that nutrient as a fertiliser. This philosophy gives rise to a system usually involving high levels of externally derived inputs. “It permits the use of any chemical found to be beneficial” (Tinker 2000). Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are usually of limited value in such systems. ‘Low input’ systems, such as organic, are harder to define in simple terms.