Messina [Melilotus siculus (Turra) Vitman ex. B. D Jacks] is a salt- and waterlogging-tolerant annual legume that could be highly productive on saline land. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi form a symbiotic relationship with the majority of terrestrial plant species, and improved productivity of plants inoculated with AM fungi under saline conditions has been attributed to the increased uptake of nutrients such as phosphorus (P). However, the mycorrhizal status of M. siculus under saline or non-saline conditions is unknown, as is the role of AM in improved nutrition and nodulation. In this study, the role of AM fungi in growth improvement and nodulation of M. siculus was examined in saline and non-saline soil. The M. siculus plants were inoculated with either a single AM species or mixed AM species, or remained uninoculated, and were grown at three levels of sodium chloride (NaCl) (0, 80, and 250 mm NaCl). AM-inoculated plants had significantly greater nodulation than plants that did not receive AM inoculum, regardless of salinity level. Plants inoculated with mixed AM species at 250 mm NaCl showed improved survival (90%) compared with the plants inoculated with single AM species or uninoculated control plants (30%). Within each salinity level, plants inoculated with mixed AM species had significantly greater dry weight than all other treatments. In addition, plants inoculated with mixed AM species had increased total uptake of P. It is likely that the increased growth observed in AM-inoculated M. siculus plants is due to improved P nutrition, showing the potential of AM fungi to enhance the growth of M. siculus on saline land.
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Vol. 63 • No. 2