Phosphorus relationships and production of extrametrical hyphae by two types of willow ectomycorrhizas at different soil phosphorus levels

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There is much circumstantial evidence for a role of increased P uptake in the growth response of plants to ectomycorrhizas. Full response curves with and without mycorrhizal infection along a P gradient in soil are, however, required to test this hypothesis fully. In this experiment, rooted cuttings of Salix viminalis L. cv. Bowles Hybrid were grown in a 1:2 mixture by volume of gamma-irradiated soil and sterile sand, with bicarbonate-extractable P concentrations of 4, 6, 10, 21, 60 or 90 mg P kg−1. The cuttings were inoculated by mixing peat/vermiculite spawn of Laccaria proxima (Boud.) Pat., or Thelephora terrestris (Ehrh.) Fr., or autoclaved spawn 1: 5 by volume with the soil: sand mixture. The plants showed a positive growth response to mycorrhizal infection by either fungus at the two lower P levels, and to L. proxima only at 10 mg P kg−1. At 21 mg kg−1and above, infection was reduced and neither mycorrhizal inoculation nor further P additions caused significant growth increases. These results imply that the growth responses to ectomycorrhizas in this experiment were solely due to increases in P uptake. Cuttings infected with L. proxima tended to be larger than those infected by T. terrestris. Estimates of percent mycorrhizal infection did not differ between the fungi at the lower P levels. However, overall production of extramatrical hyphae per gram of soil was highest in soil inoculated with L. proxima. At 10 mg P kg−1the length of L. proxima hyphae per unit length of mycorrhizal root, P uptake per unit root weight, and total P content in plants infected with L. proxima were significantly higher than for T. terrestris. This study confirms that increased P uptake can be an important component of growth stimulation by ectomycorrhizas. It also presents the first quantification of extramatrical ectomycorrhizal hyphae in soil and suggests a role for them in the growth response.

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