Is there an association between root architecture and mycorrhizal growth response?



  • The symbiosis between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and plants is evolutionarily widespread. The response of plant growth to inoculation by these fungi (mycorrhizal growth response; MGR) is highly variable, ranging from positive to negative. Some of this variation is hypothesized to be associated with root structure and function. Specifically, species with a coarse root architecture, and thus a limited intrinsic capacity to absorb soil nutrients, are expected to derive the greatest growth benefit from inoculation with AM fungi.
  • To test this hypothesis, previously published literature and phylogenetic information were combined in a meta-analysis to examine the magnitude and direction of relationships among several root architectural traits and MGR.
  • Published studies differed in the magnitude and direction of relationships between root architecture and MGR. However, when combined, the overall relationship between MGR and allocation to roots, root diameter, root hair length and root hair density did not differ significantly from zero.
  • These findings indicate that possessing coarse roots is not necessarily a predictor of plant growth response to AM fungal colonization. Root architecture is therefore unlikely to limit the evolution of variation in MGR.