Selective interactions between different species of mycorrhizal fungi and Rhizobium meliloti strains, and their effects on growth, N2-fixation (15N) and nutrition of Medicago sativa L.

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Three isolates of vesicular-arbuscular (VA) mycorrhizal fungi, belonging to the species Glomus mosseae (Nicol. and Gerd.) Gerd. and Trappe, G. fasciculatum (Taxter sensu Gerd.) Gerd, and Trappe, and G. caledonium (Nicol. and Gerd.) Trappe and Gerd, were inoculated in dual combinations with six strains of Rhizobium meliloti with the aim of testing these combinations for functional compatibility with their common host plant, the legume Medicago sativa L. Symbiotic efficiency (promotion of plant growth and N and P nutrition) was found to be dependent on the particular combination of Rhizobium strain and Glomus species indicating selective and specific compatibilities between strains and isolates of the two types of microsymbiont, but also between them and the common host plant. Observed effects on plant growth were in general, though not always, related to the extent of VA mycorrhizal colonization. Although the different mycorrhizal and/or rhizobial treatments produced different effects on plant growth, the rate of nodule formation on M. sativa roots remained constant. Most mycorrhizal treatments increased the concentration and/or content of N in plant shoots but effectiveness was in the order: G. fasciculatum > G. mosseae > G. caledonium. In some cases, this increase in N-content may be a consequence of a P-mediated stimulation of N2-fixation by VA mycorrhiza, as ascertained using 15N. In other instances, however, the increase seems to reflect a VA mycorrhizal-mediated enhancement of N-uptake from soil. VA mycorrhizal inoculation decreased the concentration of Ca and Mg in plant shoots and a buffering effect of VA mycorrhiza in situations of nutrient excess in soil is proposed.

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