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Changes in carbon and nitrogen allocation, growth and grain yield induced by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) subjected to a period of water deficit

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Drought is a major abiotic factor limiting agricultural crop production. One of the effective ways to increase drought resistance in plants could be to optimize the exploitation of symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Hypothesizing that alleviation of water deficits by AMF in wheat will help maintain photosynthetic carbon-use, we studied the role of AMF on gas-exchange, light-use efficiencies, carbon/nitrogen ratios and growth and yield parameters in the contrasting wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars ‘Vinjett’ and ‘1110’ grown with/without AMF symbiosis. Water deficits applied at the floret initiation stage significantly decreased rates of photosynthetic carbon gain, transpiration and stomatal conductance in the two wheat cultivars. AMF increased the rates of photosynthesis, transpiration and stomatal conductance under drought conditions. Water deficits decreased electron transport rate and increased non-photochemical quenching (NPQ) in ‘1110’ but not in ‘Vinjett’. With AMF, nitrogen concentrations increased in roots of both cultivars, but decreased in grains of ‘Vinjett’ and in side-tiller grains of ‘1110’ regardless of water status. With water deficits, AMF colonization increased plant height in both cultivars. AMF also increased biomass and grain yield in ‘1110’ but not in ‘Vinjett’. The results showed that the improvements in growth and yield were the results of AMF-mediated increases in photosynthesis during drought stress and that the alleviating effect of AMF depended on the wheat cultivar.

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Fig. 1
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Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi


Total carbon content


Total nitrogen content


Soil relative water content


Fresh weight


Dry weight


Main tiller


Side tillers


Photosynthesis rate


Stomatal conductance


Transpiration rate


Effective quantum yield of photosystem II


Electron transfer rate to photosystem II


Non-photochemical quenching


Standard error


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We thank Betina Hansen and Ulla Andersen for their help in setting up the pot experiment at the Research Centre Flakkebjerg. We thank Anne-Pia Holde Larsen for her help in estimating AM fungal root colonization and Birgitte Kjærgaard for the C/N analysis of the plant samples. DANIDA has contributed to the stay of Qin Zhou in Denmark.

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Correspondence to Bernd Wollenweber.

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Soil relative water content (SRWC) during the drought treatment. Vertical bars indicate standard error (n = 5) (JPEG 103 kb)

Mean daily temperatures (°C) during the experiment (JPEG 130 kb)

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Zhou, Q., Ravnskov, S., Jiang, D. et al. Changes in carbon and nitrogen allocation, growth and grain yield induced by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) subjected to a period of water deficit. Plant Growth Regul 75, 751–760 (2015).

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