Studies have shown arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) enhance phosphorus (P) uptake and drought tolerance in maize (Zea mays L.) grown in semiarid soils. However, little is known regarding the contribution of AMF to maize treated with different levels of phosphorus and grown in different soil moisture levels. This study was conducted to determine the effects of AMF (Glomus fasciculatum) inoculation on growth and P uptake of maize treated with different levels of soil P and soil moisture. Different P levels (0, 50, and 100 kg P ha-1) were applied on maize grown in soils with and without mycorrhizal fungi, and at different moisture levels producing -0.05, -0.4, -0.8, and -1.5 MPa of drought stress. Increasing P rates significantly (p < 0.05) reduced mycorrhizal colonization. Mycorrhizal colonization was higher under moderate than under lower soil moisture levels. Drought stress × soil P content × AMF inoculation interaction had significant (p < 0.05) effect on maize shoot and root dry weight and tissue P concentration. Overall, results of this study suggest that mycorrhizal inoculation enhances P uptake and maximizes maize biomass under low, moderate, and high soil moisture conditions without P applications. Except for the lowest soil moisture level (-1.5 MPa), mycorrhizal plants produced higher biomass, with greater tissue P content than nonmycorrhizal plants at all soil P and soil moisture levels. These results indicate that establishing efficacious AMF with maize could be an efficient alternative for growers than relying on P fertilizer application and its associated costs and environmental concerns.
Keywords: Arbuscular Mycorrhiza Fungi, Drought Tolerance, Phosphorus Levels, Maize Plants.
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