Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are known to facilitate effective acquisition of phosphorus (P) by host plants in low P soils. However, the contribution of mycorrhizal traits to high P-use efficiency in modern-bred maize genotypes is still not clear. In the present study one backcross maize inbred line 224 (bred for high P-use efficiency) was used as the host plant associated with AM fungal species (Rhizophagus irregularis or Glomus mosseae) grown at a range of soil P treatments (10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 mg P kg–1, Experiment 1) or foliar P applications (0, 0.025%, 0.5% m/v, Experiment 2). The experiments were to test the hypothesis whether the change point of the mycorrhizal growth and P responsiveness of 224, as well as the expression of ZEAma;Pht1;6 was at or near the optimal P supply level. In addition, different AM inoculants might differ in regulating P uptake of the host. Our results indicated that inbred line 224 was highly responsive to mycorrhizal inoculation. In Experiment 1, root colonisation rate, hyphal length density and alkaline phosphatase increased with the increase of soil P supply level. However, the mycorrhizal growth response (MGR) and P accumulation in shoot (MPR) were greatly affected by soil P supply level and varied between the two fungal species. Maize plants exhibited higher MGR and MPR at lower P supply when inoculated with R. irregularis, and at intermediate P supply when inoculated with G. mosseae. In Experiment 2, shoot P uptake was significantly increased by foliar P supply and inoculation, whereas shoot growth was significantly affected by P supply and the interaction. The expression of the AM-inducible Pi transporter gene ZEAma;Pht1;6 was neither significantly affected by soil (except at 100 mg P kg–1, Experiment 1) or foliar P supply level, nor by fungal species. Root P uptake efficiency (RPUE) was generally greatly increased by mycorrhizal colonisation at all P supply levels in both experiments, and significant correlations were observed between mycorrhizal variables and RPUE in Experiment 1. Our results indicate that the formation of mycorrhizal association could increase RPUE and thus may be partly attributed to high P-use efficiency of inbred line 224. The different responsiveness of mycorrhizal fungi to soil-available P implies the importance for the development of precision strategies to optimise the potential function of AM fungi under different P fertilisation management regime in agricultural soils.
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Vol. 64 • No. 9