Can AM Fungi help with salt stress. This research report says YES!

Sorghum plants with increasing levels of salt concentration

This research report starts off with this first sentence, “An increase in salt concentration in the soil, i.e., soil salinity, is becoming a significant problem worldwide, as it is prevailing in all climates. Almost 7% of the earth’s land surface has become saline prone (Ruiz-Lozano et al., 2001), and the increased salinization of arable land will result in 30% land loss by 2030 and up to 50% by 2050 (Porcel et al., 2012).”

If you have been involved in farming any length of time you know what salt does to crop land and you know that the salt concentrations happen slowly over time, but they do happen! How does it happen? Usually, it is through irrigation water and lack of rainfall. Almost all irrigation water has some salts in the water and this minor amount is not too bad until drought and then the salts accumulate and cause problems. Salts can also build up in high rainfall. Typically, these salts move through the soil till they reach an impermeable area and so move laterally through the soil. They will move till they pool in the lower field areas and these pools of underground water are salty. Salts can also accumulate through fertilizer or manure applications both of which can be very salty.

Fortunately, these salts are usually in such low concentrations that we never notice how they are affecting plants, but they can affect plants. AM fungi are known to improve plant performance under stress, and they are naturally found in organic systems where they do improve plant yields through a number of pathways. What we don’t do is supplement or augment AM fungi to help these plants overcome salt stress.

A great table in this study shows the crops (wheat, cucumber, basil, alfalfa, pepper, pigeon pea, squash), the AM fungi (Rhizophagus irregularis, Glomus mosseae, funneliformis mosseae, Glomus versiforme, Glomus monosporum, etc) that can colonize on these plants for salt stress relief and the effect the AM fungi had on the plant growth (increased leaf area, increased plant growth, increased nutrient uptake, increased stomata conductance, etc.). Why is this important to you as a grower? These AM Fungi are available to you to apply to fields. The science behind these AM fungi and the industry that supports the organic grower are now able to produce, package and make available these for use on the farm!

So, you may ask yourself, why am I reading boring research reports? There is always a hope that something will stand out and make a difference for organic farming and maybe this is one of those things. To read more here is a link to the report: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi for salinity stress: Anti-stress role and mechanisms

Author: Bob Whitney, Regents Fellow & Extension Organic Specialist

Agriculturalist, extension educator and researcher, organic agriculture enthusiast and promoter, international program developer, Christian, husband, father and friend.

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