Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal infection of grass seedlings in a degraded semi-arid savanna in Botswana

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SUMMARY

Infection of eight indigenous grasses with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal (VAM) fungi was studied in a savanna in South-eastern Botswana. Infection of seedlings with VAM fungi was rapid just after germination at the onset of the rainfall season. Particularly high infection levels were found in the primary roots of seedlings but levels temporarily dropped with the development of the secondary roots. In 30 % of all cases germinating spores were found to be the source of infection, suggesting an important role for them in semi-arid grasslands. The inoculum potential of soils from eroded and non-eroded sites in the study area was compared. Subsoil was found to have a lower inoculum potential than topsoil. Topsoil from an eroded site without vegetation showed a lowered inoculum potential compared to sites with vegetation present. Topsoil from unvegetated sites where soil material was deposited however, did not always show a lower inoculum potential. This indicates that the transport and redistribution of water and soil material does not automatically result in lower infection levels.

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