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Soil tillage affects the community structure of mycorrhizal fungi in maize roots

Jansa, J., Mozafar, A., Kuhn, G., Anken, T., Ruh, R., Sanders, I. R., Frossard, E.
Ecological applications 2003 v.13 no.4 pp. 1164-1176
DNA, Scutellospora, Zea mays, chiseling, community structure, corn, crops, field experimentation, hyphae, microbial activity, mycorrhizal fungi, no-tillage, nutrient content, plowing, polymerase chain reaction, roots, single-stranded conformational polymorphism, soil, weeds, Switzerland
In this study we tested whether communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) colonizing the roots of maize (Zea mays L.) were affected by soil tillage practices (plowing, chiseling, and no‐till) in a long‐term field experiment carried out in Tänikon (Switzerland). AMF were identified in the roots using specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) markers that had been developed for the AMF previously isolated from the soils of the studied site. A nested PCR procedure with primers of increased specificity (eukaryotic, then fungal, then AMF species or species‐group specific) was used. Sequencing of amplified DNA confirmed that the DNA obtained from the maize roots was of AMF origin. Presence of particular AMF species or species‐group was scored as a presence of a DNA product after PCR with specific primers. We also used single‐strand conformation polymorphism analysis (SSCP) of amplified DNA samples to check if the amplification of the DNA from maize roots matched the expected profile for a particular AMF isolate with a given specific primer pair. Presence of the genus Scutellospora in maize roots was strongly reduced in plowed and chiseled soils. Fungi from the suborder Glomineae were more prevalent colonizers of maize roots growing in plowed soils, but were also present in the roots from other tillage treatments. These changes in community of AMF colonizing maize roots might be due to (1) the differences in tolerance to the tillage‐induced disruption of the hyphae among the different AMF species, (2) changes in nutrient content of the soil, (3) changes in microbial activity, or (4) changes in weed populations in response to soil tillage. This is the first report on community composition of AMF in the roots of a field‐grown crop plant (maize) as affected by soil tillage.