Mycorrhizal symbiosis can modify plant response to drying soil, but little is known about the relative contribution of soil vs. root hyphal colonization to drought resistance of mycorrhizal plants. Foliar dehydration tolerance, characterized as leaf and soil water potential at the end of a lethal drying episode, was measured in bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris) colonized by Glomus intraradices or by a mix of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi collected from a semi-arid grassland. Path analysis modeling was used to evaluate how colonization rates and other variables affected these lethal values. Of several plant and soil characteristics tested, variation in dehydration tolerance was best explained by soil hyphal density. Soil hyphal colonization had larger direct and total effects on both lethal leaf water potential and soil water potential than did root hyphal colonization, root density, soil aggregation, soil glomalin concentration, leaf phosphorus concentration or leaf osmotic potential. Plants colonized by the semi-arid mix of mycorrhizal fungi had lower lethal leaf water potential and soil water potential than plants colonized by G. intraradices. Our findings support the assertion that external, soil hyphae may play an important role in mycorrhizal influence on the water relations of host plants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science