Galvez, L., Douds, D., Drinkwater, L., and P. Wagoner. 2001. Effect of tillage and farming system upon VAM fungus populations and mycorrhizas and nutrient uptake of maize. Plant and Soil 228:299-308.

Abstract: Low-input agricultural systems that do not rely on fertilizers may be more dependent on vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal [VAM] fungi than conventionally managed systems. We studied populations of spores of VAM fungi, mycorrhiza formation and nutrient utilization of maize (Zea mays L.) grown in moldboard plowed, chisel-disked or no-tilled soil under conventional and low-input agricultural systems. Maize shoots and roots were collected at four growth stages. Soils under low-input management had higher VAM fungus spore populations than soils under conventional management. Spore populations and colonization of maize roots by VAM fungi were higher in no-tilled than in moldboard plowed or chisel-disked soil. The inoculum potential of soil collected in the autumn was greater for no-till and chisel-disked soils than for moldboard plowed soils and greater for low-input than conventionally farmed soil. The effects of tillage and farming system on N uptake and utilization varied with growth stage of the maize plants. The effect of farming system on P use efficiency was significant at the vegetative stages only, with higher efficiencies in plants under low-input management. The effect of tillage was consistent through all growth stages, with higher P use efficiencies in plants under moldboard plow and chisel-disk than under no-till. Plants grown in no-tilled soils had the highest shoot P concentrations throughout the experiment. This benefit of enhanced VAM fungus colonization, particularly in the low-input system in the absence of effective weed control and with likely lower soil temperatures, did not translate into enhanced growth and yield.

Keywords: sustainable agriculture - tillage - VAM fungi - Zea mays