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The Effects of Four Organic Cropping Sequences on Soil Phosphorous Cycling and Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

Authors: R. J. Parham, J. D. Knight


Organic farmers across Saskatchewan face soil phosphorus (P) shortages. Due to the restriction on inputs in organic systems, farmers rely on crop rotation and naturally-occurring arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) for plant P supply. Crop rotation is important for disease, pest, and weed management. Crops that are not colonized by AMF (non-mycorrhizal) can decrease colonization of a following crop. An experiment was performed to quantify soil P cycling in four cropping sequences under organic management and determine if mustard (non-mycorrhizal) was delaying the colonization of subsequent wheat. Soils from the four cropping sequences were measured for inorganic soil P (Pi), AMF spore density (SD), phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA, for AMF biomarker counts), and alkaline phosphatase activity (ALPase, related to AMF metabolic activity). Plants were measured for AMF colonization and P content and uptake of above-ground biomass. A lack of difference in AMF activity indicated that mustard was not depressing colonization. Instead, AMF colonization was largely determined by crop type and crop rotation.

Keywords: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, crop rotation, organic farming, phosphorous, soil microbiology.

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