Impact of mycorrhizal fungi and nematodes on growth of Andropogon gerardii Vit., soil microbial components and soil aggregation




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Kansas State University


Biotic interactions among mycorrhizal fungi, nematodes, plants and other microbial communities can have significant effects on the dynamics of C and nutrient cycling. The specific objectives of this study were (1) to evaluate the effects of grazing and mycorrhizal symbiosis on the allocation and storage of C, especially for plant above-and belowground biomass, (2) evaluate the biotic rhizosphere interactions and their role in C cycling, (3) determine the soil microbial community structure as a result of the plant-mycorrhizal symbiosis, and (4) determine the effect of mycorrhizal fungal abundance on soil aggregation. The soil for the experiment was sampled from the Ap horizon of a fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Cumulic Hapludolls located at Konza Prairie Biological Station, Manhattan KS. The experiment was a three-way factorial in a complete randomized block design with four replications. The three factors were mycorrhizae (M), nematodes (N), and phosphorus (P). In a greenhouse study, 96 microcosms (52×32×40cm) were planted to Andropogon gerardii Vit. so that a third of the microcosms could be destructively sampled at the end of each growing season for three years. Plant biomass was separated into aboveground, rhizomes, and roots. All components were dried and weighed at harvest. Mycorrhizal fungi and P increased plant aboveground biomass, while nematodes decreased plant aboveground biomass compared to non-inoculated controls. As expected, P increased plant root biomass, while mycorrhizae increased plant rhizome biomass. Nematodes decreased both above- and belowground biomass. Phospholipid and neutral lipid fatty acid (PLFA and NLFA) analysis were determined for both soil and roots. Water-stable aggregates were separated using a modified Yoder wet-sieving apparatus and analyzed for mass, total C and N, and the isotopic composition of C. There was a positive relationship between AM fungal abundance in the soil and the mass of the largest macroaggregates (>2000µm) after the 3rd year (r=0.67). The effect of roots on the macroaggregate (>2000µm) fraction was not apparent. Phosphorus significantly increased smaller macroaggregates (250-2000µm), along with significantly enhanced plant root biomass, which indirectly demonstrated the effect of roots on the formation of macroaggregates (250-2000µm). The addition of P induced more plant derived C into the aggregates than the non-P amended microcosms as suggested by the [superscript]13C content of the aggregates. Our results confirmed the importance of biotic and abiotic interactions among mycorrhizae, nematodes, and phosphorus on plant growth and the resulting effect on the soil C cycle and soil aggregation.



aggregation AMF soil

Graduation Month



Master of Science


Department of Agronomy

Major Professor

Charles W. Rice