Arbuscular mycorrhiza improves substrate hydraulic conductivity in the plant available moisture range under root growth exclusion
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) proliferate in soils and are known to affect soil structure. Although their contribution to structure is extensively investigated, the consequences of those processes for soil water extractability and transport has, so far, gained surprisingly little attention. Therefore we asked, whether AMF can affect water retention and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity under exclusion of root ingrowth, in order to minimize plant driven effects. We carried out experiments with tomato inoculated with Rhizoglomus irregulare in a soil substrate with sand and vermiculite that created variation in colonization by mixed pots with wild type (WT) plants and mycorrhiza resistant (RMC) mutants. Sampling cores were introduced and used to assess substrate moisture retention dynamics and modeling of substrate water retention and hydraulic conductivity. AMF reduced the saturated water content and total porosity, but maintained air filled porosity in soil spheres that excluded root ingrowth. The water content between field capacity and the permanent wilting point (6–1500 kPa) was only reduced in mycorrhizal substrates that contained at least one RMC mutant. Plant available water contents correlated positively with soil protein contents. Soil protein contents were highest in pots that possessed the strongest hyphal colonization, but not significantly affected. Substrate conductivity increased up to 50% in colonized substrates in the physiologically important water potential range between 6 and 10 kPa. The improvements in hydraulic conductivity are restricted to substrates where at least one WT plant was available for the fungus, indicating a necessity of a functional symbiosis for this effect.We conclude that functional mycorrhiza alleviates the resistance to water movement through the substrate in substrate areas outside of the root zone.
Bitterlich, M.; Franken, P.; Graefe J. 2018. Arbuscular mycorrhiza improves substrate hydraulic conductivity in the plant available moisture range under root growth exclusion. Frontiers in Plant Science 9:301.