Evaluation of Switchgrass Rhizosphere Microflora for Enhancing Seedling Yield and Nutrient Uptake
- John J. Brejda ,
- Lowell E. Moser and
- Kenneth P. Vogel
Many rhizosphere microorganisms enhance nutrient uptake and plant growth, but their effectiveness can vary with host species and with genotype within species. This study evaluated the effectiveness of rhizosphere microflora indigenous to the rhizosphere of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) for enhancing seedling yield and nutrient uptake. Switchgrass roots and rhizosphere soil were collected from native prairies and seeded stands in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, and North Carolina. Seedlings of four switchgrass cultivars were inoculated with root fragments and rhizosphere soil from each collection, fertilized with a nutrient solution, and grown in steamed sand for 12 wk in a greenhouse. Seedlings inoculated with rhizosphere microflora produced up to 15-fold greater shoot and root yields, and recovered up to 6-fold more N and 36-fold more P than seedlings inoculated with rhizosphere bacteria only. These responses were consistent for all four switchgrass cultivars and were probably due to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Switchgrass rhizosphere populations were highly variable in their ability to recover N and P and stimulate seedling shoot and root yields. Seedlings inoculated with rhizosphere populations from seeded switchgrass stands averaged 1.5-fold greater shoot and root yields than seedlings inoculated with rhizosphere populations from native prairies. Rhizosphere populations that stimulated the greatest N uptake differed from populations that resulted in the greatest P uptake. Highly effective microbial populations appear to develop in the rhizosphere of seeded switchgrass stands.
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