Contrasting phosphate acquisition of mycorrhizal fungi with that of root hairs using the root hairless barley mutant


Iver Jakobsen. E-mail:


Comparisons between plant species or cultivars differing in root hair length have indicated a major impact of root hairs on the mycorrhizal dependency of plants with respect to phosphate (P) uptake. The current study aimed to investigate this relationship by comparing directly the mycorrhizal dependency of a spontaneous root hairless mutant, brb, in Hordeum vulgare cv Pallas and its wild type. Both brb and wild type were grown at different soil P levels in association with different mycorrhizal fungi. P uptake of brb and wild type was similar at high P levels, but P uptake by non-mycorrhizal brb plants at low P levels was substantially lower than that of the non-mycorrhizal wild-type plants. However, P uptake of the mutant was much increased by mycorrhizas and with one fungus, the additional P uptake was effectively translated into increased plant growth. Roots of the mutant contained typical colonization structures and a radioactive tracer confirmed P transport by the extraradical mycelium. This is the first direct evaluation of the relative effectiveness of root hairs and mycorrhizas. Mycorrhizas effectively substituted root hairs in P uptake, whereas the additional P was most often used less effectively in promoting plant growth than P provided by root hairs.