The C-economy, nutritional benefits and symbiotic performance of dual inoculated Phaseolus vulgaris (L.) plants, under variable nutrient conditions
The tripartite symbiosis between Phaseolus vulgaris, arbuscular-mycorrhiza and the nodule bacteria, Rhizobia have been the focus of many studies ranging over a number of decades, however these studies have failed to answer certain questions relating the role of the symbionts in regard to host nutrition and the subsequent influence of these symbionts on the host C- economy. There is little doubt over the synergistic benefits involved in the dual inoculation of bean plants, as well as the resultant C-costs of maintaining the 2 symbionts, yet the specific contribution of the individual symbionts to the hosts overall nutrient and C-economy remain to be clarified. Thus the aim of this thesis is to help clarify these points by determining the symbiont induced photosynthetic, respiratory and nutritional changes taking place in the host. This was achieved by a series of experiments in which nodulated bean plants were split into two categories-those with and without AM colonized roots. These plants were then exposed to a range of growing conditions, including hi and low P, and a series of N treatments, ranging from zero N through to 3 mM NH/. Under these differing nutrient conditions growth, photosynthetic, respiratory, nutrient and amino acid responses were monitored, thus allowing for the determination of the symbionts influence on the host and the hosts reliance on the respective symbionts. Host reliance was noted most strongly under nutrient limiting conditions. Under low P treatment AM was the dominant symbiont as far as host C was concerned, allowing for the early establishment of the AM, thus ensuring the uptake of P for both host and nodule development. High P affected AM colonization to a greater extent than it did nodule dry weight and conversely the addition of N~ + led to a greater decrease in nodule dry weight than it did AM colonization. In spite of this decline, AM benefited the host by improving host N nutrition and relieving N-feedback inhibition of the export amino acid asparagine on BNF. These AM induced benefits did come at a cost to the host though, the dual inoculated plants had higher below ground respiratory costs and subsequently higher photosynthetic rates to compensate for the increased demand for C. The higher photosynthetic rates associated with dual inoculation were as a result of symbiont induced sink stimulation and not due to the improved nutrition of the host, as shown by the photosynthetic and nutrient response ratios. However, the respiratory costs associated with the uptake of soil nutrients were lower in AM colonized roots, thus showing an increased efficiency in nutrient gain by AM colonized roots. This improvement in host N nutrition as a result of AM colonization, coupled with the lower respiratory costs of AM nutrition led to the conclusion that under certain growing conditions nodules can become redundant and possibly parasitic.