Agroscope, 8046 Zurich, Switzerland

Underground teamwork: mycorrhizal fungi for promoting plant growth

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) play an important role in agriculture, supporting a wide range of crops with nutrients. There is currently a great interest in enhancing crop productivity through field inoculations with AMF. Here, we show how inoculated AMF are able to successfully establish in eight different field soils, increasing the biomass of red clover in four out of eight soils tested. The reliability of field inoculations with AM fungi is currently largely unpredictable and the effects on crop productivity are strongly dependent on the field soils in question and on the naturally occurring AMF communities. With the aim of improving this situation, we have developed a new molecular method for determining AMF communities. To increase the success of field inoculations, we are currently investigating whether an inoculation adapted to the field site and to the naturally occurring AMF communities can be undertaken in a targeted and successful manner. The use of beneficial soil microorganisms for improving soil quality should allow us to reduce the use of agrochemical products in future, thereby improving sustainability in agriculture.

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