Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi do not enhance nitrogen acquisition and growth of old-field perennials under low nitrogen supply in glasshouse culture


Author for correspondence: Heather L. Reynolds Tel: +1 812 8550792 Fax: +1 812 8556705 Email:


  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are known to promote plant growth when phosphorus is limiting, but the role of AMF in plant growth under nitrogen (N) limiting conditions is unclear.
  • Here, we manipulated N (control vs inorganic and organic forms) and AMF species (control vs four AMF species) for five old-field perennials grown individually in a glasshouse under N-limiting conditions.
  • We found that AMF were at best neutral and that some AMF species depressed growth for some plant species (significant plant–fungus interaction). Native plant species growth was strongly depressed by all but one AMF species; exotic plant species were less sensitive to AMF. We found no evidence of plant N preferences. Both natives and exotics were able to acquire more N with N addition, but only exotics grew more with added N.
  • Our results suggest that AMF do not promote plant N acquisition at low N supply, and our results are consistent with other research showing that AMF can act as a parasitic carbon drain when phosphorus availability is relatively high.