Submitted to: Biological Agriculture and Horticulture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/17/2008
Publication Date: 5/1/2009
Citation: Douds, D.D., Nagahashi, G., Shenk, J.E., Demchak, K. 2009. Inoculation of strawberries with AM fungi produced on-farm increased yield. Biological Agriculture and Horticulture. 26:209-219.
Interpretive Summary: Arbuscular mycorrhizal [AM] fungi are beneficial soil fungi that colonize the roots of plants and assist them in nutrient uptake from the soil. We have developed a method for the on-farm production of inoculum of AM fungi. This method is suitable for vegetable and small-fruit producers who grow their own seedlings in greenhouses for later transplanting into the soil outdoors. We tested the effect of this inoculum on the growth and yield of strawberries on a farm in southeastern Pennsylvania. Inoculum was produced at this farm in 2003 and used to inoculate young strawberry plantlets in early 2004. Plants were transplanted to the field later in 2004 and yield of fruit was measured in 2005. Plants that were inoculated with AM fungi produced 17% greater yield than those that were not inoculated. This represented a return on the investment in the inoculum production system of approximately 150 fold. Inoculation with AM fungi represents a potentially significant way to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of small farms.
Technical Abstract: Inoculation of plants with arbuscular mycorrhizal [AM] fungi has the potential to increase or maintain yields and allow for reduced fertilizer and pesticide application, thereby enhancing agricultural sustainability. We inoculated strawberry plants (Fragaria x ananassa Duch. cv Chandler) prior to outplanting with a mixed species inoculum of AM fungi. The inoculum was produced on-the-farm in 2003 in a mixture of compost and vermiculite with bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Flugge) as host plants. Plants were outplanted into raised black plastic beds on 30 June 2004 and harvested 6-25 June 2005. Inoculation with AM fungi increased yield 17% over uninoculated controls, 5.5 vs. 4.7 kg per 10 plant sampling unit, respectively. Inoculation had no significant effect on whole season mean fruit weight, indicating an average increase of 3.6 fruit per plant for inoculated plants over uninoculated plants. Utilization of AM fungus inoculum produced on-farm as an amendment to horticultural potting media for the production of seedlings later outplanted has the potential for significant increases in crop yields.