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Influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on soil structure and aggregate stability of a vertisol

Birgitte Neergaard Bearden and Leif Petersen
Plant and Soil
Vol. 218, No. 1/2 (2000), pp. 173-183
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42950650
Page Count: 11
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Influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on soil structure and aggregate stability of a vertisol
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Abstract

The influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi on aggregate stability of a semi-arid Indian vertisol was studied in a pot experiment in which Sorghum bicolor (L.) was grown as test plant for 10 weeks. Pasteurized soil inoculated with AM fungi was studied with pasteurized and unpasteurized soils as references. A part of the soil in each pot was placed in nylon mesh bags to separate effects of roots and hyphae. The sorghum plants were planted outside the mesh bags which permitted AM hyphae to enter while excluding roots. Aggregate stability of the soil was determined by wet-sieving and turbidimetric measurements. Development of the AM fungi was quantified as colonized root length and external hyphal length. Soil exposed to growth of roots and hyphae (outside mesh bags) showed aggregates with larger geometric mean diameter (GMD) in pasteurized soil inoculated with AM fungi than in pasteurized uninoculated soil. There was no significant difference in GMD of the inoculated, pasteurized soil and the unpasteurized soil. No significant effects of inoculation or plant growth were found in pasteurized soil exposed to hyphal growth only (inside the mesh bags). However, the unpasteurized soil had significantly higher GMD than the pasteurized soil, irrespective of plants and inoculum. Turbidimetric measurements of soil exposed to roots and hyphae (outside mesh bags) showed the highest aggregate stability for the inoculated pasteurized soil. These results demonstrate that AM fungi contribute to the stabilization of soil aggregates in a vertisol, and that the effect is significant after only one growing season. The effect was associated with both AM hyphae and the stimulation of root growth by AM fungi. The contribution from plant roots and AM hyphae to aggregate stability of different size fractions is discussed.

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