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OSC Activity A.2

Predictive tools for characterizing mycorrhizal contributions to phosphorus uptake by organic crops

Activity Researchers

Name Affiliation
Chantal Hamel, Lead Researcher
hamelc@agr.gc.ca

Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre
PO Box 1030
Swift Current, SK S9H 3X2

Marc St-Arnaud, Co-applicant
marc.st-arnaud@umontreal.ca

Adjunct Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Plant Biology Research Institute
Université de Montréal
4101 Sherbrooke East
Montreal, QC H1X 2B2

Derek Lynch, Co-applicant
derek.lynch@dal.ca
Canada Research Chair in Organic Agriculture
Dalhousie University
Faculty of Agriculture
PO Box 550
Truro, NS B2N 5E3
Paul Voroney, Co-applicant
pvoroney@uoguelph.ca

Professor
Land Resource Science
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1

Diane Knight, Co-applicant
diane.knight@usask.ca

Associate Professor
Department of Soil Science
University of Saskatchewan
5E82-51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8
Hong Wang, Co-applicant
hong.wang@agr.gc.ca

Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre
PO Box 1030
Swift Current, SK S9H 3X2

Ken Greer, Collaborator
general@westernag.ca
Cheif Executive Officer
Western Ag Innovations
Saskatoon, SK
Warren Eilers, Collaborator
warren.eilers@agr.gc.ca
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Saskatoon Research Centre
Senior Land Resource Officer
Agri-environmental Interpretation
51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A8
Catherine Fox, Collaborator
catherine.fox@agr.gc.ca

Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre
2585 County Rd 20
Harrow, ON N0R 1G0

Shabtai Bittman, Collaborator
shabtai.bittman@agr.gc.ca
Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre
PO Box 1000
Agassiz, BC V0M 1A0
Mohamed Hijri, Collaborator
mohamed.hijri@umontreal.ca
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Plant Biology Research Institute
Université de Montréal
4101 Sherbrooke East
Montreal, QC H1X 2B2

Objectives

The overall objective is to provide integrated tools to predict the contribution of native and introduced arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi to crop phosphorus (P) nutrition and productivity in soil test laboratories, enabling these commercial laboratories to make recommendations about the value of AM inoculation, and more accurate recommendations for costly P fertilizer use.  We will deliver three models.  Two of them will provide improved recommendations for P fertilization based on (1) empirical indicators of the contribution of AM fungi or (2) direct measurement of AM fungi using DNA markers, in addition to soil P supply capacity. The other model (3) will generate probabilities of yield increase with the use of an AM inoculant, based on results of a soil test.

The objectives of the different components of the project are to:

  1. Develop empirical indicators of the contribution of native AM fungi to crop P nutrition and productivity based on soil capacity, and crop management practices, incorporate these indicators into forecasting models, and test these models
  2. Develop molecular markers to identify and quantify AM fungal taxa from environmental samples, a protocol to use these indicators in soil testing laboratories, incorporate these indicators into forecasting models, and test these models
  3.  Develop indicators of soil responsiveness to AM inoculation, using an Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) certified AM fungal inoculant in numerous simple on-farm assays, and incorporate these indicators into a forecasting model to predict the likely outcome of the inoculation of wheat crops
  4.  Share the data collected in the field surveys with the NAHARP Agri-Environmental Indicator Initiative, and develop a basis for monitoring soil health in Canada

Activity Summary

Soil P fertility management is challenging on organic field cropping, where only a few P sources can be used to provide agro-ecosystems with agronomic amounts of P (Government of Canada 2006).  The AM fungi naturally increase the P use efficiency of plants and can mitigate the problem of low soil P availability often encountered in organic crop production.  We propose to develop tools for the management of the AM symbiosis in cultivated soils of Canada using wheat as a test crop, through two different approaches.  We recently found that the distribution of AM fungi in cultivated soils of Saskatchewan was related to soil type.  On this basis, we will seek indicators of AM fungi’s contribution to wheat nutrition, among descriptors of the soil environment through surveys on organic and conventional farms. 

Important progress is being made in the field of AM fungal genetics.  Sequencing of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of two AM fungal isolates reveals that mtDNA has a very low level of polymorphism and offers an avenue for the development of a diagnostic test for AM fungi based on the analysis of their mtDNA.  Such a test would allow direct measurement of AM fungi abundance in soil or root samples and analysis of the composition of their community.  An mtDNA region could be an ideal indicator for the contribution of AM fungi to wheat P nutrition and yield.  Once identified, these indicators will be used in models to forecast wheat P fertilizer requirements taking into consideration both soil P supply capacity and the contribution of AM fungi to the ability of wheat plants to extract P from the soil.  Different models will be evaluated over two years for the precision of their P fertilizer requirement forecasts, and the best model will be used in soil fertility management programs at Western Ag Innovations.  A model will also be constructed to forecast the influence of AM inoculation of wheat seeds on the yield of wheat crops, based on conditions of the soil environment. 

The data collected from soil surveys will be shared with the Agri-Environmental Indicator Initiative of the National Agri-Environmental Health Analysis and Reporting Program’s (NAHARP) of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in support of the elaboration of an important baseline for soil health monitoring in Canada.  The project will apply expertise in AM fungal genetics and molecular biology, soil analysis, pedology and modeling to create tools to improve the profitability of Canadian farms, the health of cultivated soils and the quality of the environment for all Canadians.

Results

Background and Supporting Documents