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Tillage or no-tillage: Impact on mycorrhizae


Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are ubiquitous in agricultural soils. These fungi play important roles in plant nutrition and soil conservation. The persistence of AM fungi in ecosystems depends on the formation and survival of propagules (e.g., spore, hyphae and colonized roots). While spores are considered to be resistant structure that may be view as "long-term" propagules when viable host plants are not present, hyphae are considered to be the main source of inocula when host plants are present and the soil is not disturbed. Tillage is an integral part of modem agriculture that can modify the physical, chemical and biological properties of a soil. Consequently, tillage practices may also affect AM fungi. The various tillage practices used in the management of soil for maximum crop production may negatively impact the survival of AM fungal propagules. In tilled soil, certain AM species may survive while others may disappear. Because AM fungi are more abundant in the topsoil, deep plowing may dilute their propagules in a greater volume of soil, thereby reducing the level of infection of a plant root. Tillage is particularly detrimental to AM hyphae if the soil is tilled in the fall and the hyphae are detached from the host plant. Under no-till (NT), AM fungi survive better, particularly when they are close to the host crop on which they developed. There is speculation that in NT systems, plants may follow old root channels and potentially encounter more AM fungal propagules than plants growing in soil that has been tilled. Management of AM fungi in NT soil is essential to maximizing benefits to crops. This review reports how tillage practices affect AM fungi species richness, survivability and infectivity, and how conservation tillage can increase AM fungi survival, consequently improving plant phosphorus uptake and soil aggregate stability.

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