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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e27825. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027825. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

Can arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi reduce the growth of agricultural weeds?

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Ecological Farming Systems, Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ART, Zürich, Switzerland.



Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are known for their beneficial effects on plants. However, there is increasing evidence that some ruderal plants, including several agricultural weeds, respond negatively to AMF colonization. Here, we investigated the effect of AMF on the growth of individual weed species and on weed-crop interactions.


First, under controlled glasshouse conditions, we screened growth responses of nine weed species and three crops to a widespread AMF, Glomus intraradices. None of the weeds screened showed a significant positive mycorrhizal growth response and four weed species were significantly reduced by the AMF (growth responses between -22 and -35%). In a subsequent experiment, we selected three of the negatively responding weed species--Echinochloa crus-galli, Setaria viridis and Solanum nigrum--and analyzed their responses to a combination of three AMF (Glomus intraradices, Glomus mosseae and Glomus claroideum). Finally, we tested whether the presence of a crop (maize) enhanced the suppressive effect of AMF on weeds. We found that the growth of the three selected weed species was also reduced by a combination of AMF and that the presence of maize amplified the negative effect of AMF on the growth of E. crus-galli.


Our results show that AMF can negatively influence the growth of some weed species indicating that AMF have the potential to act as determinants of weed community structure. Furthermore, mycorrhizal weed growth reductions can be amplified in the presence of a crop. Previous studies have shown that AMF provide a number of beneficial ecosystem services. Taken together with our current results, the maintenance and promotion of AMF activity may thereby contribute to sustainable management of agroecosystems. However, in order to further the practical and ecological relevance of our findings, additional experiments should be performed under field conditions.

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