Moisture retention properties of a mycorrhizal soil
- Cite this article as:
- Augé, R.M., Stodola, A.J., Tims, J.E. et al. Plant and Soil (2001) 230: 87. doi:10.1023/A:1004891210871
The water relations of arbuscular mycorrhizal plants have been compared often, but virtually nothing is known about the comparative water relations of mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal soils. Mycorrhizal symbiosis typically affects soil structure, and soil structure affects water retention properties; therefore, it seems likely that mycorrhizal symbiosis may affect soil water relations. We examined the water retention properties of a Sequatchie fine sandy loam subjected to three treatments: seven months of root growth by (1) nonmycorrhizal Vigna unguiculata given low phosphorus fertilization, (2) nonmycorrhizal Vigna unguiculata given high phosphorus fertilization, (3) Vigna unguiculata colonized by Glomus intraradices and given low phosphorus fertilization. Mycorrhization of soil had a slight but significant effect on the soil moisture characteristic curve. Once soil matric potential (Ψm) began to decline, changes in Ψm per unit change in soil water content were smaller in mycorrhizal than in the two nonmycorrhizal soils. Within the range of about −1 to −5 MPa, the mycorrhizal soil had to dry more than the nonmycorrhizal soils to reach the same Ψm. Soil characteristic curves of nonmycorrhizal soils were similar, whether they contained roots of plants fed high or low phosphorus. The mycorrhizal soil had significantly more water stable aggregates and substantially higher extraradical hyphal densities than the nonmycorrhizal soils. Importantly, we were able to factor out the possibly confounding influence of differential root growth among mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal soils. Mycorrhizal symbiosis affected the soil moisture characteristic and soil structure, even though root mass, root length, root surface area and root volume densities were similar in mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal soils.