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Field inoculation with arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungi overcomes phosphorus and zinc deficiencies of linseed (Linum usitatissimum) in a vertisol subject to long-fallow disorder

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Abstract

Background and aims

Long-fallow disorder is expressed as exacerbated deficiencies of phosphorus (P) and/or zinc (Zn) in field crops growing after long periods of weed-free fallow. The hypothesis that arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) improve the P and Zn nutrition, and thereby biomass production and seed yield of linseed (Linum usitatissimum) was tested in a field experiment.

Methods

A factorial combination of treatments consisting of ± fumigation, ±AMF inoculation with Glomus spp., ±P and ±Zn fertilisers was used on a long-fallowed vertisol. The use of such methods allowed an absolute comparison of plants growing with and without AMF in the field for the first time in a soil disposed to long-fallow disorder.

Results

Plant biomass, height, P and Zn concentrations and contents, boll number and final seed yield were (a) least in fumigated soil with negligible AMF colonisation of the roots, (b) low initially in long-fallow soil but increased with time as AMF colonisation of the roots developed, and (c) greatest in soil inoculated with AMF cultures. The results showed for the first time in the field that inflows of both P and Zn into linseed roots were highly dependent on %AMF-colonisation (R2 = 0.95 for P and 0.85 for Zn, P < 0.001) in a soil disposed to long-fallow disorder. Relative field mycorrhizal dependencies without and with P+Zn fertiliser were 85 % and 86 % for biomass and 68 % and 52 % for seed yield respectively.

Conclusions

This research showed in the field that AMF greatly improved the P and Zn nutrition, biomass production and seed yield of linseed growing in a soil disposed to long-fallow disorder. The level of mycorrhizal colonisation of plants suffering from long-fallow disorder can increase during the growing season resulting in improved plant growth and residual AMF inoculum in the soil, and thus it is important for growers to recognise the cause and not terminate a poor crop prematurely in order to sow another. Other positive management options to reduce long fallows and foster AMF include adoption of conservation tillage and opportunity cropping.

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Abbreviations

AMF:

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi

ANOVA:

Analysis of variance

DAS:

Days after sowing

RFMD:

Relative field mycorrhizal dependency

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Grains Research and Development Corporation for financial support and the former Analytical Section of the Leslie Research Centre for chemical analyses. We also thank the agronomists who provided information from their experience with long-fallow disorder some of which is given as personal communications in this paper.

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Correspondence to J. P. Thompson.

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Thompson, J.P., Clewett, T.G. & Fiske, M.L. Field inoculation with arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungi overcomes phosphorus and zinc deficiencies of linseed (Linum usitatissimum) in a vertisol subject to long-fallow disorder. Plant Soil 371, 117–137 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-013-1679-z

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Keywords

  • Long-fallow disorder
  • Plant P and Zn nutrition
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Relative field mycorrhizal dependency
  • Plant P and Zn inflows
  • Linseed (Linum usitatissimum)
  • Soil fumigation