The contribution of the extramatrical mycelium to N and P nutrition of mycorrhizal Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) was investigated. Seedlings either inoculated with Paxillus involutus (Batsch) Fr. or non-mycorrhizal were grown in a two compartment sand culture system where hyphae were separated from roots by a 45 μm nylon net. Nutrient solution of the hyphal compartment contained either 1.8 mm NH4+ and 0.18 mm H2PO4− or no N and P. Aluminium added to the hyphal compartment as a tracer of mass flow was not detected in the plant compartment, indicating that measurements of N and P transfer by the mycelium were not biased by solute movement across the nylon net.
The addition of N and P to the hyphal compartment markedly increased dry weight, N and P concentration and N and P content of mycorrhizal plants. Calculating uptake from the difference in input and output of nutrient in solution confirmed a hyphal contribution of 73% and 76% to total N and P uptake, respectively. Hyphal growth was increased at the site of nutrient solution input.