The growth of the extramatrical mycelium of ectomycorrhizal fungi and the growth response of Pinus sylvestris L.



Nine ectomycorrhizal fungi have been studied for their effect on the growth of Pinus sylvestris L. seedlings. The plants were kept growing for six months in root chambers with a changeable volume. All seedlings were cultivated under conditions of low substrate nutrient concentrations and they became strongly infected within a short time. We demonstrated the existence of an important negative correlation between the extent of the fungal development and the growth of the host plants. In most studies this reduced growth is attributed to an energy drain by the fungus. Fungi producing large amounts of fungal tissue are more energy consuming than species which only develop a sparse mycelium. However we suggest that also nitrogen acquisition by the plants might be altered by the fungus. Certain fungi probably retain a considerable amount of nitrogen for their own growth, thus reducing the amount transported to the host plant. A decreased N transport finally results in a slower growth. In this study the extramatrical mycelium in the rooting substrate was determined by wet oxidation and by nitrogen determination. This component of the fungal biomass showed the biggest variation among the different mycobiont species. The results are discussed in relation to the culture technique employed.