Differential host plant performance as a function of soil arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities: experimentally manipulating co-occurring Glomus species

Research paper by Danny J. Gustafson, Brenda B. Casper

Indexed on: 20 Oct '05Published on: 20 Oct '05Published in: Plant Ecology


In order to evaluate host plant performance relative to different soil arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) communities, Andropogon gerardii seedlings were grown with nine different AMF communities. The communities consisted of 0, 10, or 20 spores of Glomus etunicatum and 0, 10, or 20 spores of Glomus intraradices in all possible combinations. Spores were produced by fungal cultures originating on A. gerardii in a serpentine plant community; seeds of A. gerardii were collected at the same site. The experiment was performed in the greenhouse using a mixture of sterilized serpentine soil and sand to which naturally occurring non-mycorrhizal microbes were added. There was no difference in root AMF colonization rates between single species communities of either G. etunicatum or G. intraradices, but G. intraradices enhanced plant growth and G. etunicatum did not. However, plants grew larger with some combinations of G.␣intraradices plus G. etunicatum than with the same quantity of G. intraradices alone. These results suggest the potential for niche complementarity in the mycorrhizal fungi. That G. etunicatum only increased plant growth in the presence of G. intraradices could be illustrative of why AMF that appear to be parasitic or benign when examined in isolation are maintained within multi-species mycorrhizal communities in nature.