Plant and Soil

, Volume 314, Issue 1–2, pp 183–196 | Cite as

Disentangling the impact of AM fungi versus roots on soil structure and water transport

  • Paul D. HallettEmail author
  • Debbie S. Feeney
  • A. Glyn Bengough
  • Matthias C. Rillig
  • Charlie M. Scrimgeour
  • Iain M. Young
Regular Article


The relative importance of roots and AM-fungi on soil physical processes was investigated by controlling the presence of roots and AM fungi in pot experiments using a mycorrhiza-defective tomato mutant and a wild-type tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Root-Zone and Bulk Soil sections were established by splitting pots into two lengthwise halves using a nylon mesh that contained roots whilst allowing the free movement of fungal hyphae. Post-incubation microbial populations and fungal biomass were measured and related to soil stability, pore structure and water repellency. Unplanted controls consistently had the least fungal biomass, fatty acids, water-stable aggregates (WSA) and water repellency. Wild-type-planted treatments had significantly more WSA than mycorrhiza-defective treatments (P < 0.01). Fluctuations in water content induced by transpiration caused significant changes in soil pore structure, measured using high-resolution X-Ray computer tomography. Porosity and mean pore size increased in soil aggregates from planted treatments, which had larger more heterogeneous pores than those in the unplanted soils. AM fungi accentuated soil stability. However, changes were not linked to repellency and fungal biomass. The presence of plants, regardless of AM fungi, appears to have the greatest impact on increasing soil stability.


AM Fungi Root zone Soil structure X-ray computed tomography Water transport Soil biota 



This work was partly funded by The University of Abertay, The Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC Ref. D20454). SCRI receives grant-in-aid support from the Scottish Government Rural and Environment Research and Analysis Directorate. The authors wish to thank Susan Barker and Sally Smith for supplying the mutant and non-mutant seeds and for their comments on the original manuscript. The BBSRC funded D. Feeney’s visit to the University of Montana.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul D. Hallett
    • 1
    Email author
  • Debbie S. Feeney
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. Glyn Bengough
    • 1
  • Matthias C. Rillig
    • 3
  • Charlie M. Scrimgeour
    • 1
  • Iain M. Young
    • 2
  1. 1.Scottish Crop Research InstituteDundeeUK
  2. 2.SIMBIOS CentreUniversity of AbertayDundeeUK
  3. 3.Institut für BiologieFreie Universität Berlin (Free University Berlin)BerlinGermany

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