AIMS: This study investigates how autochthonous micro-organisms [bacterium and/or arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi] affected plant tolerance to Zn contamination. METHODS AND RESULTS: Zinc-adapted and -nonadapted Glomus mosseae strains protected the host plant against the detrimental effect of Zn (600 microg g(-1)). Zn-adapted bacteria increased root growth and N, P nutrition in plants colonized by adapted G. mosseae and decreased the specific absorption rate (SAR) of Cd, Cu, Mo or Fe in plants colonized by Zn-nonadapted G. mosseae. Symbiotic structures (nodule number and extraradical mycelium) were best developed in plants colonized by those Zn-adapted isolates that were the most effective in increasing plant Zn tolerance. The bacterium also increased the quantity and quality (metabolic characteristics) of mycorrhizal colonization, with the highest improvement for arbuscular vitality and activity. Inocula also enhanced soil enzymatic activities (dehydrogenase, beta-glucosidase and phosphatase) and indol acetic acid (IAA) accumulation, particularly in the rhizosphere of plants inoculated with Zn-adapted isolates. CONCLUSIONS: Glomus mosseae strains have a different inherent potential for improving plant growth and nutrition in Zn-contaminated soil. The bacterium increased the potential of mycorrhizal mycelium as inoculum. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: Mycorrhizal performance, particularly that of the autochthonous strain, was increased by the bacterium and both contributed to better plant growth and establishment in Zn-contaminated soils.
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