The role of mycorrhizal fungi in acquisition of mineral nutrients by host plants is examined for three groups of mycorrhizas. These are; the ectomycorrhizas (ECM), the ericoid mycorrhizas (EM), and the vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas (VAM). Mycorrhizal infection may affect the mineral nutrition of the host plant directly by enhancing plant growth through nutrient acquisition by the fungus, or indirectly by modifying transpiration rates and the composition of rhizosphere microflora.
A capacity for the external hyphae to take up and deliver nutrients to the plant has been demonstrated for the following nutrients and mycorrhizas; P (VAM, EM, ECM), NH4 + (VAM, EM, ECM), NO3 - (ECM), K (VAM, ECM), Ca (VAM, EM), SO4 2- (VAM), Cu (VAM), Zn (VAM) and Fe (EM). In experimental chambers, the external hyphae of VAM can deliver up to 80% of plant P, 25% of plant N, 10% of plant K, 25% of plant Zn and 60% of plant Cu. Knowledge of the role of mycorrhiza in the uptake of nutrients other than P and N is limited because definitive studies are few, especially for the ECM. Although further quantification is required, it is feasible that the external hyphae may provide a significant delivery system for N, K, Cu and Zn in addition to P in many soils. Proposals that ECM and VAM fungi contribute substantially to the Mg, B and Fe nutrition of the host plant have not been substantiated.
ECM and EM fungi produce ectoenzymes which provide host plants with the potential to access organic N and P forms that are normally unavailable to VAM fungi or to non mycorrhizal roots. The relative contribution of these nutrient sources requires quantification in the field.
Further basic research, including the quantification of nutrient uptake and transport by fungal hyphae in soil and regulation at the fungal-plant interface, is essential to support the selection and utilization of mycorrhizal fungi on a commercial scale.
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Marschner, H., Dell, B. Nutrient uptake in mycorrhizal symbiosis. Plant Soil 159, 89–102 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00000098
- hyphal uptake
- vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas