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Cultured arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and native soil inocula improve seedling development of two pioneer trees in the Andean region

Abstract

The tree species Alnus acuminata and Morella pubescens, native to South America, are candidates for soil quality improvement and afforestation of degraded areas and may serve as nurse trees for later inter-planting of other trees, including native crop trees. Both species not only form symbioses with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF), but also with N2-fixing actinobacteria. Because tree seedlings inoculated with appropriate mycorrhizal fungi in the nursery resist transplanting stress better than non-mycorrhizal seedlings, we evaluated for A. acuminata and M. pubescens the potential of inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi for obtaining robust tree seedlings. For the first time, a laboratory-produced mixed AMF inoculum was tested in comparison with native soil from stands of both tree species, which contains AMF and EMF. Seedlings of both tree species reacted positively to both types of inocula and showed an increase in height, root collar diameter and above- and belowground biomass production, although mycorrhizal root colonization was rather low in M. pubescens. After 6 months, biomass was significantly higher for all mycorrhizal treatments when compared to control treatments, whereas aboveground biomass was approximately doubled for most treatments. To test whether mycorrhiza formation positively influences plant performance under reduced water supply the experiment was conducted under two irrigation regimes. There was no strong response to different levels of watering. Overall, application of native soil inoculum improved growth most. It contained sufficient AMF propagules but potentially also other soil microorganisms that synergistically enhance plant growth performance. However, the AMF inoculum pot-produced under controlled conditions was an efficient alternative for better management of A. acuminata and M. pubescens in the nursery, which in the future may be combined with defined EMF and Frankia inocula for improved management practices.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the German Research Foundation (DFG) for the Grant SCHU1203/10 in the Research Unit 816 and Claudia Krüger for help with the inoculum production. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Arthur Schüßler.

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Urgiles, N., Strauß, A., Loján, P. et al. Cultured arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and native soil inocula improve seedling development of two pioneer trees in the Andean region. New Forests 45, 859–874 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-014-9442-8

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Keywords

  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Ecuador
  • Native soil inoculum
  • Pioneer trees
  • Reforestation
  • Seedling growth promotion