Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 181–186 | Cite as

Mycorrhizal colonization and nitrogen uptake by maize: combined effect of tropical earthworms and velvetbean mulch

  • Angel I. Ortiz-CeballosEmail author
  • Juan J. Peña-Cabriales
  • Carlos Fragoso
  • George G. Brown
Original Paper


Earthworms and mulch can have positive or negative effects on mycorrhizae (fungus-roots) and N uptake by plants. In the present experiment, maize plants were grown under greenhouse conditions with or without tropical earthworms (Balanteodrilus pearsei) and mulch of velvetbean (Mucuna pruriens var. utilis). The formation of vesicles and hyphae of arbuscular-mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in roots and N uptake by maize plants was measured at harvest. The addition of earthworms and velvetbean reduced AM root colonization. Earthworms had no effect on plant root or shoot biomass. In the absence of velvetbean, earthworms reduced AM colonization, but when velvetbean was present, this effect disappeared. The addition of velvetbean mulch, on the other hand, had an effect on plant biomass (above- and belowground) and a positive effect on AM fungal colonization of roots in presence of worms, but a negative effect when worms were absent. When both M. pruriens and B. pearsei were added, shoot and root biomass and N concentrations increased. Vesicle formation was related to velvetbean mulch decomposition as well as the higher N concentration in maize roots. Management of mulch–earthworm interactions may be of value, particularly in low-input and organic agricultural systems, and deserves further investigation.


Earthworm Cover crop Arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungi N concentration Zea mays 



The authors are grateful to Prof. P. Nannipieri and anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and careful revision of the manuscript. We thank José A. García for helpful discussions; Antonio Vera for efficient analysis of AM hyphae and vesicle formation and total N concentration; and Antonio Angeles for technical assistance. This research work was partially supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency through contracts MEX 10959/R0-R4 of the Tropical Acid Soils Coordinated Research Project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angel I. Ortiz-Ceballos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juan J. Peña-Cabriales
    • 2
  • Carlos Fragoso
    • 3
  • George G. Brown
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Biotecnología y Ecología Aplicada, Dirección General de InvestigacionesUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Biotecnología y BioquímicaCINVESTAV—Unidad IrapuatoIrapuatoMexico
  3. 3.Departamento de Biologia de SuelosInstituto de EcologiaXalapaMexico
  4. 4.Embrapa FlorestasColomboBrazil

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