Beneficial fungi improve drought tolerance in strawberry crops

Arbuscule and hyphal fprmation in a plant root stained with Trypan blue

Arbuscule and hyphal fprmation in a plant root stained with Trypan blue

Strawberry growers in the UK may be able to maintain yields and reduce irrigation inputs by up to 40%, by inoculating plants with naturally-occurring beneficial soil-dwelling fungi (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi or AMF).

The results in a paper, out this week, are especially important to fruit growers in the south-east of England where over 50% of the UK’s fruit is grown – and will be of interest to all fruit growers facing irrigation restrictions resulting from legislation affecting water abstraction.

Results from the science based at East Malling Research in Kent, led by Louisa Robinson-Boyer, showed that two different species of AMF or a combination of the two all gave similar beneficial results over the control plants.

“Whilst it has been long-known that these beneficial fungi can have positive effects on plant nutrient uptake, protect plants from infection by pathogens and buffer them against adverse environmental stresses, this work provides an opportunity to reduce irrigation by 40% and still retain required growth and yield outputs,” commented Louisa Robinson-Boyer. She added, “Working with these fascinating fungi has great potential to address some of the future food security challenges being raised by climate change. This work will greatly assist with future sustainable food production – maintaining yields whilst reducing inputs.”

AMF occur across most ecosystems, but their levels are much decreased across intensive agricultural systems, mainly owing to soil tillage and increases in fertility.

This work was undertaken as part of a University of Kent PhD funded by the East Malling Trust.

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