Arbuscular Mycorrhizas, Microbial Communities, Nutrient Availability, and Soil Aggregates in Organic Tomato Production
Effects of arbuscular mycorrhzal (AM) fungi on plant growth and nutrition are well-known, but their effects on the wider soil biota are less clear. This is in part due to difficulties with establishing appropriate non-mycorrhizal controls in the field. Here we present results of a field experiment using a new approach to overcome this problem. A previously well-characterized mycorrhizal defective tomato mutant (rmc) and its mycorrhizal wildtype progenitor (76R MYC+) were grown at an organic fresh market tomato farm (Yolo County, CA). At the time of planting, root in-growth cores amended with different levels of N and P, were installed between experimental plants to study localized effects of mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal tomato roots on soil ecology. Whilst fruit yield and vegetative production of the two genotypes were very similar at harvest, there were large positive effects of colonization of roots by AM fungi on plant nutrient contents, especially P and Zn. The presence of roots colonized by AM fungi also resulted in improved aggregate stability by increasing the fraction of small macroaggregates, but only when N was added. Effects on the wider soil community including nematodes, fungal biomass as indicated by ergosterol, microbial biomass C, and phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiles were less pronounced. Taken together, these data show that AM fungi provide important ecosystem functions in terms of plant nutrition and aggregate stability, but that a change in this one functional group had only a small effect on the wider soil biota. This indicates a high degree of stability in soil communities of this organic farm.
Keywordsaggregates arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi tomato mutant nematode organic farm PLFA
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