Growth and phosphorus acquisition of pot-grown seedlings of karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor F. Muell.) were examined following inoculation with four ectomycorrhizal fungi –Descolea maculata Bougher (two isolates), Pisolithus tinctorius (Pers.) Coker & Couch, and Laccaria laccata (Scop, ex Fr.) Berk. & Br. Seedlings were raised in steam-sterilized sand to which 13 rates of phosphorus (0.100 mg P kg−1 soil) were applied.
All fungi except P. tinctorius produced a plant growth response. L. laccata produced the largest growth response. Responses were greatest at low rates of application of P to soil. There was no effect of the fungi on growth at levels of P application above 28 mg P kg−1 soil. A threshold effect (no increase in growth with increasing additions of P) characteristic of non-mycorrhizal seedlings was eliminated by mycorrhizal infection.
Mycorrhizal inoculation increased P content of plant tissues at sub-optimal levels of P supply. The effect of mycorrhizas on seedling P status diminished with increasing soil P. One isolate of D. maculata often had greater rates of P accumulation and produced higher concentrations of P in plant tissues than L. laccata, but did not produce greater plant biomass.
Frequency of infection for all fungi was low in soils with no additional P, and greatest with the addition of 2 mg P kg−1 soil (L. laccata and D. maculata isolate A), or 4 mg P kg−1 soil (D. maculata isolate B). Infection was reduced with increasing soil P, and not evident at 36 mg P kg−1 soil or higher levels of soil P. L. laccata had higher infection frequency and mycorrhizal root length at all levels of soil P than the D. maculata isolates.
Two fungi produced basidiomes. This occurred at levels of soil P application ranging from 4 to 28 mg P kg−1 soil for D. maculata (isolate B), and at 4 to 28 mg P kg−1 soil for L. laccata.