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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGICALLY-BASED SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE Title: Manipulating cover crops to increase mycorrhizal colonization in corn (Zea mays)

Authors
item Taheri, Wendy
item Lehman, R
item Osborne, Shannon

Submitted to: Soil/Water Research, Progress Report
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: March 23, 2011
Publication Date: May 15, 2011
Citation: Taheri, W.I., Lehman, R.M., Osborne, S.L. 2011. Manipulating cover crops to increase mycorrhizal colonization in corn (Zea mays). Soil/Water 2010 Research Progress Report. #SOIL PR 10-23. Agricultural Experiment Station, South Dakota State University.

Interpretive Summary: Mycorrhizal fungi form obligate relationships with most plant species. In many cases, these fungi confer benefits to the plant in terms of nutrient uptake, disease resistance, drought tolerance, etc. Farming practices such as tillage, fertilization, fallow, rotation, etc. affect populations of mycorrhizal fungi and therefore the benefits they provide to crops. We are conducting field studies to determine the best cover cropping practices for enhancing mycorrhizal populations and their benefits in a wheat-corn-soybean rotation in the upper mid-west corn belt. We found that cover crops can influence mycorrhizal numbers and that oats, by itself and in mixtures, seemed to have a positive effect on mycorrhizal numbers and root colonization. This report summarizes year one data of a three-year study.

Technical Abstract: Field studies were performed to determine the influence of cover crop treatments on the abundance of mycorrhizal fungi which can increase nutrient uptake by cash crops. Replicated plots established in spring wheat were assigned to eight cover crop treatments: No cover crop, winter canola, oats, hairy vetch, oats plus vetch, oats plus canola, canola plus vetch, and oats, canola, and vetch. Following wheat harvest, cover crops were seeded by direct drilling. The following spring, the cover crops were burned down, and corn was planted. The number of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil was determined after fall cover crop growth. The extent of mycorrhizal colonization of the corn roots was determined on root samples collected four weeks after corn planting. We found that cover crops can influence mycorrhizal numbers and that oats, by itself and in mixtures, seemed to have a positive effect on mycorrhizal numbers and root colonization. This report summarizes year one data of a three-year study.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014