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Divergence of mycorrhizal fungal communities in crop production systems

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Mycorrhizal fungi are present in all arable soils and colonize nearly all crops and weed pests of crops. They may be involved as mutualists or pathogens of crops in well known but poorly understood phenomena such as crop rotation and green manure effects on soil productivity. Crop change effects on mycorrhizal fungal community parameters were evaluated in three field experiments. In Experiment 1, soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr. cv. Douglas) was grown continuously or rotated with corn (Zea mays L.), milo (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench), or fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb cv. Johnstone) for two years, then soybean was grown on all plots. Continuous soybean plots were dominated byGigaspora spp., while rotated crops were dominated byGlomus spp. Differences in communities and community indices of continuous soybean and rotated plots were reduced after growing soybeans on rotated plots. In Experiment 2, a fescue sod was plowed and pearl millet (Pennisetum americanum Leeke) or crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis (L.) Scop.) grown. Both hosts resulted in great changes in populations of individual species, decreases in community dominance, and increases in community diversity and equitability. Crabgrass also resulted in reduced species richness. In Experiment 3, tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) or fescue was planted on adjacent tracts of land with a long-term history of either fescue (30 yr) or sorghum-sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench. ×S. sudanense (Piper) Staph.) (3 yr). The long-term cropping history had major effects on the mycorrhizal fungal communities which were related to the expression of mycorrhizal stunt disease of tobacco. Changes occurred in these communities in response to either current-season crop. These experiments suggest that crop rotation causes large changes in mycorrhizal fungal communities, that these changes may be involved in the rotation effect on soil productivity, and that design of cropping systems should take mycorrhizal fungal communities into consideration.

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Hendrix, J.W., Guo, B.Z. & An, Z. Divergence of mycorrhizal fungal communities in crop production systems. Plant Soil 170, 131–140 (1995).

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Key words

  • crop productivity
  • cropping systems
  • Glomales
  • soil ecology
  • vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi