Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are plant root symbionts that provide many benefits to crop production and agroecosystem function; therefore, management of AMF is increasingly seen as important to ecological farming. Agronomic weeds that form a symbiotic relationship with AMF can increase diversity and abundance of agronomically beneficial AMF taxa. Also, AMF can strongly affect plant community composition, and may thus provide some degree of biological control for weeds. Therefore, relationships between weeds and AMF have a dual significance in ecological farming, but are relatively unexamined. In glasshouse experiments, seedlings of 14 agronomic weed species were grown in the presence or absence of AMF inocula sampled from each of three types of cropping systems: organic, transitional-organic or high-input/ conventional. For each weed species, AMF root colonization rates and growth responses to AMF were assessed. On the basis of observed colonization levels, the species were classified as strong hosts (five species), weak hosts (three) and non-host species (six). Among species, biomass responses to AMF were highly variable. Strong hosts showed more positive responses to AMF than weak hosts, although the range of responses was great. Non-hosts did not suffer consistent negative biomass responses to AMF, although strong biomass reductions were noted for certain species - inoculum combinations. Biomass responses to inocula from different cropping systems varied significantly among weed species in one of two experiments. Results suggest that weed - AMF interactions can affect weed community dynamics. We recommend investigation of these interactions in agro-ecosystems that use management methods likely to intensify weed - AMF interactions, such as conservation tillage and cover cropping.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgements. The authors thank Dr I. Charvat and three anonymous reviewers for extensive editorial review. Funding was provided by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture.
- Agro-ecological restoration
- Mycorrhizal responsiveness
- Weed biocontrol
- Weed ecology