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The Effect Of Mycorrhizal Fungi And PGPR On Tree Nutritional Status And Growth In Organic Apple Production

Sebastian Przybyłko, Wojciech Kowalczyk, Dariusz Wrona

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The desire to reduce the negative impact of crops on the environment, as well as the growing concern for consumer health, is increasing interest in organic fruit production. In this context, the development of new environmentally friendly agrotechnical methods which allows for reducing the use of organic fertilizers by improving the nutrient use efficiency and consequently decreasing the leaching of them is a task of a great importance. The main purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of mycorrhizal arbuscular fungi (AMF) combined with plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) on growth and nutritional status of apple trees cultivated on a silty-loam, rich in clay minerals and humus soil under organic farming conditions. Thus, a trial was established in an experimental orchard in Wilanów in Central Poland with three cultivars (‘Topaz’, ‘Odra’, and ‘Chopin’) and a promising clone, U 8869. Trees were or were not inoculated with AMF + PGPR within a split-block experimental design with four replicates. According to the results, mycorrhizal frequency obtained in the inoculated tree roots was on average two-fold higher than in the roots of the control plants. After four years of AMF + PGPR inoculation, 24% higher trunk cross-section area (TCSA) was observed, with the nitrogen and magnesium concentrations in leaves increasing, on average, by 7.8% and 64.2%, and phosphorus and potassium content decreasing by 37.2% and 46.5%, respectively. This study shows that using AMF + PGPR inoculum supports tree roots colonization by AMF. As a result, better nitrogen nutrition status is observed that promote vigorous growth of trees and more efficient uptake of magnesium from the bulk soil. On the other hand, lower phosphorus content in inoculated tree leaves might be explained by a dilution effect, and potassium decrease could occur as a result of fungus–plant competition in conditions of this element deficiency in soil.