Can phosphorus application and cover cropping alter arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities and soybean performance after a five-year phosphorus-unfertilized crop rotational system?PeerJ. 2018; 6:e4606.P
Understanding diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) is important for optimizing their role for phosphorus (P) nutrition of soybeans (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) in P-limited soils. However, it is not clear how soybean growth and P nutrition is related to AMF colonization and diversity of AMF communities in a continuous P-unfertilized cover cropping system. Thus, we investigated the impact of P-application and cover cropping on the interaction among AMF colonization, AMF diversity in soybean roots, soybean growth and P nutrition under a five-year P-unfertilized crop rotation.
In this study, we established three cover crop systems (wheat, red clover and oilseed rape) or bare fallow in rotation with soybean. The P-application rates before the seeding of soybeans were 52.5 and 157.5 kg ha-1 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. We measured AMF colonization in soybean roots, soybean growth parameters such as aboveground plant biomass, P uptake at the flowering stage and grain yields at the maturity stage in both years. AMF community structure in soybean roots was characterized by specific amplification of small subunit rDNA.
The increase in the root colonization at the flowering stage was small as a result of P-application. Cover cropping did not affect the aboveground biomass and P uptake of soybean in both years, but the P-application had positive effects on the soybean performance such as plant P uptake, biomass and grain yield in 2015. AMF communities colonizing soybean roots were also significantly influenced by P-application throughout the two years. Moreover, the diversity of AMF communities in roots was significantly influenced by P-application and cover cropping in both years, and was positively correlated with the soybean biomass, P uptake and grain yield throughout the two years.
Our results indicated that P-application rather than cover cropping may be a key factor for improving soybean growth performance with respect to AMF diversity in P-limited cover cropping systems. Additionally, AMF diversity in roots can potentially contribute to soybean P nutrition even in the P-fertilized cover crop rotational system. Therefore, further investigation into the interaction of AMF diversity, P-application and cover cropping is required for the development of more effective P management practices on soybean growth performance.