Nutritional effects of indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal associations on the sclerophyllous species Agathosma betulina
Abstract. Relatively little is currently known about the seedling physiology of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) Agathosma betulina, a sclerophyllous crop plant cultivated for its high-value essential oils and food additives. In addition, virtually nothing is known about the AM associations of this plant. Consequently, the effect of an indigenous community of AM fungi on P nutrition and C economy in seedlings, grown in nursery conditions, was determined during different stages of host and AM fungal establishment. AM fungal ribosomal gene sequence analyses were used to identify some of the fungi within the roots, responsible for the nutritional changes. During the early stages of host and AM fungal establishment (0 to 77 days after germination), host growth was reduced, whereas the rate of P-uptake and growth respiration was increased. Beyond 77 days of growth, the rate of P-uptake and growth respiration declined. These findings, together with results obtained after molecular analyses of root associated fungal DNA, indicate that AM fungi belonging to the genera Acaulospora and Glomus, improve P-uptake and costs of utilization during the early stages of seedling establishment in a nutrient-poor soil.