Using High-Throughput Phenotyping to Explore Growth Responses to Mycorrhizal Fungi and Zinc in Three Plant Species

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

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There are many reported benefits to plants of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), including positive plant biomass responses; however, AMF can also induce biomass depressions in plants, and this response receives little attention in the literature. High-throughput phenotyping (HTP) technology permits repeated measures of an individual plant’s aboveground biomass. We examined the effect on AMF inoculation on the shoot biomass of three contrasting plant species: a vegetable crop (tomato), a cereal crop (barley), and a pasture legume (Medicago). We also considered the interaction of mycorrhizal growth responses with plant-available soil zinc (Zn) and phosphorus (P) concentrations. The appearance of a depression in shoot biomass due to inoculation with AMF occurred at different times for each plant species; depressions appeared earliest in tomato, then Medicago, and then barley. The usually positive-responding Medicago plants were not responsive at the high level of soil available P used. Mycorrhizal growth responsiveness in all three species was also highly interactive with soil Zn supply; tomato growth responded negatively to AMF inoculation in all soil Zn treatments except the toxic soil Zn treatment, where it responded positively. Our results illustrate how context-dependent mycorrhizal growth responses are and the value of HTP approaches to exploring the complexity of mycorrhizal responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5893953
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Phenomics
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Growth response
  • High-throughput phenotyping
  • Mycorrhizal fungus


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