Wheat response to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi application in the Western Cape
Thesis (MScAgric)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is the main cereal crop being planted in the Western Cape of South Africa and is also accounts for over 40% of the world’s cereal. Wheat can be grown under a variety of environmental conditions but remains susceptible to adverse temperature and soil conditions. Sustainable methods of crop management such as biofertiliser application, could improve plant adaptability and grain yields in areas affected by droughts and other strenuous environmental conditions. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are one of themost well-known and researched symbiotic organisms in agriculture. The range of benefits AMF provides to a diverse range of crops are indisputable based on both greenhouse and field trials. Despite this, region specific field data is lacking and is necessary to determine if AMF application is viable in a certain area. This study ventured to determine if AMF application in wheat systems would result in colonisation of wheat crops in multiple locations in the Western Cape and the effects of AMF application on plant and yield components. Commercially available AMF products were used in the application process with various strains of mycorrhizal fungi including Glomus intraradices, Glomus aggregatum, Glomus mosseae and Glomus etunicatum. Several plant and root parameters were measured throughout the growing season including aboveground and belowground biomass as well as grain yield. This study demonstrated that both naturally occurring AMF and applied AMF propagules, were able to colonise wheat plants in the Western Cape. Colonisation was variable across all treatments and sites but were easily visible when root samples were stained and observed under a microscope. Yield increases were observed between AMF treatments and control treatments at the Piketberg (Year 1) and Langgewens (Year 2) trial sites. This observation provides evidence to affirm that AMF application could be beneficial to crop production in the Western Cape. Producers looking to mitigate drought risk and increase grain yields in a sustainable manner would benefit from applying AMF to their soils and ensuring that conservation agriculture practices be followed to maintain the AMF network in the soil.