Evaluation of commercial composts and potting mixes and their ability to support arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi with maize (Zea mays) as host plant

M. J. Salomon, S. J. Watts-Williams, M. J. McLaughlin, C. J. Brien, N. Jewell, B. Berger, T. R. Cavagnaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The use of composts and potting mixes in food production systems is a promising way to counteract the effects of soil degradation and allows crop growth in soilless culture systems. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are a well-studied group of beneficial plant symbionts that have been shown to provide important ecosystem services. This study analysed the properties of nine commercial Australian potting mixes and composts and investigated whether they support colonization of maize plants with AMF in a plant growth bioassay. Physicochemical analyses showed highly variable properties between the substrates, with some extreme values that limited plant growth. DNA-based analysis revealed the presence of various plant pathogens, which was linked to inhibited plant growth in one substrate. Some substrates did not meet national quality standards, due to the concentrations of plant nutrients, heavy metals, or substrate maturity. Plant growth was mostly limited due to nitrogen immobilization, which required weekly fertilizer applications. Solid state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy gave insight into the decomposition state of the substrates. Plant roots in most substrates were well colonized with AMF (>60% root length), regardless of most substrate properties. Root colonization was negatively affected in only one substrate, likely due to ammonium toxicity. Results of this study show that not all commercial substrates adhered to national quality standards. Potting mixes and composts can support high mycorrhizal root colonization when plant growth is otherwise not limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalWaste Management
Volume134
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • AMF
  • Compost
  • Evaluation
  • Mycorrhiza
  • Potting mix
  • Potting soil

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