Abstract The isolation of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal (VAM) fungi from natural (savanna, rocky hill, wetland and rainforest) and disturbed (minesite) habitats in a seasonally-dry tropical region in the Northern Territory of Australia into open-pot cultures was undertaken to supplement knowledge about the diversity of these fungi. This experiment considered factors affecting the diversity of fungi obtained in trap cultures started using diluted soil from field sites and two host plants. A range of soil phosphorus and other nutrient levels from severely deficient to sufficient for maximal growth was used to determine the impact of nutrition on mycorrhizal associations of sorghum (Sorghum sp.) and clover (Trifolium subterraneum). Soil cores taken from pots at 6-week intervals provided roots and soil to assess mycorrhiza formation and sporulation without substantial damage to plants. The identification of VAM fungi to genus by observing morphological patterns within clover roots revealed substantial differences in fungus populations between soils and a moderate effect of nutrient levels on fungal diversity. Changes in the proportion of different fungi in roots over the 31 weeks of the experiment were also observed. Glomus spp. were initially the most abundant fungi within roots, but Scutellospora spp. gradually became more dominant at later harvests, while colonisation by Acaulospora spp. was limited at all times. For both clover and sorghum, sporulation was limited and was dominated by single species of Scutellospora and Acaulospora. This contrasted with the much higher diversity of spore types in the original field soils.
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