Evidence for functional redundancy in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and implications for agroecosystem management
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Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi provide benefits to host plants and show functional diversity, with evidence of functional trait conservation at the family level. Diverse communities of AM fungi ought therefore to provide increased benefits to the host, with implications for the management of sustainable agroecosystems. However, this is often not evident in the literature, with diversity saturation at low species number. Growth and nutrient uptake were measured in onions in the glasshouse on AM-free phosphorus (P)-poor soil, inoculated with between one and seven species of AM fungi in all possible combinations. Inoculation with AM fungi increased shoot dry weight as well as P and copper concentrations in shoots but reduced the concentration of potassium and sulphur. There was little evidence of increased benefit from high AM fungal diversity, and increasing diversity beyond three species did not result in significantly higher shoot weight or P or Cu concentrations. Species of Glomeraceae had the greatest impact on growth and nutrient uptake, while species of Acaulospora and Racocetra did not have a significant impact. Failure to show a benefit from high AM fungal diversity in this and other studies may be the result of experimental conditions, with the benefits of AM fungal diversity only becoming apparent when the host plant is faced with multiple stress factors. Replicating the complex interactions between AM fungi, the host plant and their environment in the laboratory in order to fully understand these interactions is a major challenge to AM research.
KeywordsArbuscular mycorrhiza Fungal diversity Phosphorus Onion
Thanks to the UK Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs for funding and Chris Walker for assistance in preparation of AM inoculum.
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