A strip-tillage production system for tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) is impacted by nutrient competition from bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Flügge). Tomato and bahiagrass differ in mycorrhizal responsiveness and our objective was to evaluate the influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi on the competitive pressure of bahiagrass on growth of tomato. The first experiment evaluated the effect of bahiagrass competition, soil pasteurization, and AM fungal inoculation on tomato growth, P content, and root colonization in a low-P soil. Tomato grown alone was very responsive to mycorrhizal colonization - shoot dry mass of inoculated plants was up to 243% greater than that of noninoculated plants. Tomato grown with bahiagrass had reduced root and shoot growth across all treatments compared with tomato grown alone, but there was an increase in shoot mass following AM fungal inoculation across both pasteurized and nonpasteurized treatments resulting in a >50% increase in shoot dry mass of tomato compared to noninoculated controls. A second experiment was conducted to test bahiagrass competition, soil pasteurization, AM fungal inoculation, and P amendment on tomato growth in a moderate-P soil. With bahiagrass competition and no P addition, inoculation increased root mass by 115% and shoot mass by 133% in pasteurized soil; however, with the application of 32 mg P kg-1 the trend was reversed and inoculated plants were smaller than noninoculated controls. We conclude that the role of mycorrhizae in plant competition for nutrients is markedly impacted by soil nutrient status and reduced P application may allow tomatoes to take advantage of their inherent responsiveness to mycorrhizae in a low to moderate soil-P environment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Soil Science