Growth benefits provided by different arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to Plantago lanceolata depend on the form of available phosphorus

Roel Pel, Simon Dupin, Henk Schat, Jacintha Ellers, E. Toby Kiers, Nico M. van Straalen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Strains of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) differ markedly in the growth benefits they provide to plants. We investigated whether these differences depend on the chemical form of inorganic phosphorus. The closely related AMF Glomus custos and Rhizophagus irregularis were compared using Plantago lanceolata as the host plant, grown in quartz sand with either soluble orthophosphate or sparingly soluble hydroxyapatite as a sole source of phosphorus. In a growth experiment with AMF-inoculated plants in a climate chamber, sampling at 3-wk intervals enabled a detailed time-resolved analysis of shoot and root phosphorus concentrations and growth performance of P. lanceolata. The ability of AMF to enhance plant growth and deliver phosphate depended strongly on the identity of the available phosphorus source. In orthophosphate-amended substrate only modest differences in plant growth performance (dry matter accumulation and allocation, phosphorus acquisition) were observed between the two AMFs, despite evident AMF root colonization as shown by strain-specific mtLSU qPCR analysis. The treatment with hydroxyapatite however, created stringent growth-limiting conditions and significantly increased the growth benefit provided by R. irregularis over G. custos and the non-mycorrhizal treatment. Plants with R. irregularis could acquire much more phosphorus from apatite compared to G. custos. There were also differences in shoot-to-root dry matter allocation and plant tissue phosphorus concentrations between the R. irregularis and G. custos treatments. Our observations suggest that in experiments on the symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi more attention should be paid to the chemical form of phosphorus in soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-96
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Glomus custos
  • Hydroxyapatite
  • Mycorrhizal traits
  • Phosphorus
  • Rhizophagus irregularis
  • Symbiont quality


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