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A field study using the fungicide benomyl to investigate the effect of mycorrhizal fungi on plant fitness

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Summary

The effect of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza (VAM) on the fecundity ofVulpia ciliata ssp.ambigua was investigated at two field sites in eastern England by applying the fungicide benomyl to reduce VAM infection. The application of benomyl at the two sites produced very different results. At one site the application of the fungicide reduced the fecundity of plants whereas at the other fecundity was increased. At the first site the reduction in fecundity was linked to a significant reduction in VAM infection on the sprayed plants. The mechanism of the benefit associated with the VAM infection is however unclear: there was no treatment effect on morphology or on phosphorus inflow. At the second site, where fecundity was increased, there was only a negligible amount of VAM infection amongst the unsprayed plants and it is suggested that the increase in fecundity with the application of benomyl may have resulted from a reduction in infection by other, presumably pathogenic, fungi. The value of VAM fungi to the host plant may therefore not be restricted to physiological benefits. They may also provide protection to the plant by competing for space with other species of pathogenic fungi.

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Carey, P.D., Fitter, A.H. & Watkinson, A.R. A field study using the fungicide benomyl to investigate the effect of mycorrhizal fungi on plant fitness. Oecologia 90, 550–555 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01875449

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