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Acta Agronomica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (8): 1603-1615.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1006.2021.03050


Effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on grain yield and nitrogen uptake in maize

ZHANG Xue-Lin*(), LI Xiao-Li, HE Tang-Qing, ZHANG Chen-Xi, TIAN Ming-Hui, WU Mei, ZHOU Ya-Nan, HAO Xiao-Feng, YANG Qing-Hua   

  1. Agronomy College, Henan Agricultural University/Co-construction State Key Laboratory of Wheat and Maize Crop Science/Collaborative Innovation Center of Henan Grain Crops, Zhengzhou 450002, Henan, China
  • Received:2020-08-24 Accepted:2021-01-13 Online:2021-08-12 Published:2021-03-01
  • Contact: ZHANG Xue-Lin E-mail:xuelinzhang1998@163.com;zxl1998@henau.edu.cn
  • Supported by:
    Natural Science Foundation of Henan Province(182300410013);National Key Research and Development Program of China(2018YFD0200605);Science and Technology Innovation Fund of Henan Agricultural University(30500712)


Clarifying the role of arbuscular mycorrhizae fungi (AMF) in yield of maize grain and associated nitrogen (N) uptake can inform the application of organic fertilizer in farmland, thus, improving nutrient use efficiency, enhancing crop resistance to biotic or abiotic stress, and increasing overall crop yield. A 3-factor experiment was designed and carried out during the maize growing season in 2016 and 2017. The factors were as follows: (1) N fertilizer addition (180 kg hm-2 [N180] and 360 kg hm-2 [N360]), (2) wheat straw addition (without straw: S0 and with straw: S1), and (3) three mycorrhizal treatments, including a control (M0, roots and AMF could not enter the hyphal chamber from the growth chamber), an AMF treatment (M1, only AMF can enter the hyphal chamber from the growth chamber), and a root treatment (M2, both roots and AMF can enter the hyphal chamber from the growth chamber). Maize grain yield, plant biomass, N uptake, and root variables were measured. All three factors had a significant effect on maize yield and N uptake. N360 treatment of N fertilizer significantly increased maize yield and their N accumulation compared with N180 treatment. In the case of straw treatment, the grain yield reduced by 6% than that of the treatment without straw, whereas soil inorganic N increased by 129%. For the N180 treatment, mean maize yield of M1 and M2 treatments were 38% and 82% higher than M0, respectively; for the N360 treatment, these were 16% and 48%, respectively. The contribution of AMF to grain yield was higher for N180 than for N360. The AMF treatment increased maize ear length, grain number per row, and total root length independent of straw addition, but the ability of AMF to improve root biomass and N uptake was significantly higher with straw addition than without straw. M1 and M2 treatments significantly increased grain number per row, grain number per spike, plant biomass, N accumulation, and total root length relative to the M0, whereas inorganic soil N declined significantly. The contribution of AMF to maize yield was higher than M0 under conditions of both N180 and straw addition. Correlation analysis and structural equation revealed that N application and AMF significantly increased maize yield. The results showed that AMF could improve maize root properties, enhance N absorption capacity, improve ear traits, and increase maize grain yield under different N application rates and straw conditions.

Key words: crop residue, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, nitrogen fertilizer management, maize yield, nutrient absorption

Table 1

Analysis of variance of N fertilization, straw and mycorrhizae on maize grain yield, plant biomass, N accumulation, and root properties"

Nitrogen (N)
Straw (S)
Mycorrhizae (M)
N × S N × M S × M N × S × M
产量Yield (g plant-1) 2016 431.97*** 18.38*** 204.09*** 1.19 6.36** 10.93*** 4.62*
2017 287.90*** 21.60*** 430.60*** 0.001 20.70*** 32.80*** 6.80**
收获指数Harvest index (%) 2016 246.67*** 21.86*** 53.95*** 3.28 22.55*** 6.29** 2.84
2017 26.35*** 0.08 29.95*** 0.62 13.40*** 16.16*** 1.08
生物量Biomass (g plant-1)
根Root 2016 17.94*** 2.22 109.44*** 1.24 6.95** 7.08** 1.90
2017 38.34*** 9.87** 116.03*** 1.45 8.41*** 7.41** 1.80
茎Stem 2016 27.94*** 1.41 80.86*** 20.70*** 1.25 0.52 5.45*
2017 49.16*** 5.41* 232.12*** 3.86 4.17* 1.55 0.31
叶Leaf 2016 61.51*** 0.02 88.94*** 5.55* 1.86 4.33* 3.52*
2017 60.58*** 1.98 190.06*** 1.77 0.33 5.36** 1.39
氮素积累量N accumulation (mg plant-1)
籽粒Grain 2016 231.93*** 11.74** 56.63*** 1.31 0.70 2.95 0.24
2017 168.75*** 11.51*** 84.90*** 2.72 5.84** 13.36*** 7.68***
根Root 2016 5.77* 0.21 5.77** 1.77 2.01 0.04 0.19
2017 29.05*** 0.09 9.29*** 7.49** 1.705 0.421 1.621
茎Stem 2016 4.24* 1.47 0.76 10.92** 0.27 0.33 4.07
2017 23.27*** 4.19* 24.31*** 0.13 1.58 0.46 1.51
叶Leaf 2016 25.17*** 0.27 13.34*** 2.09 1.53 1.27 1.73
2017 21.50*** 0.33 12.07*** 0.22 1.39 1.22 0.52
根系特性 Root properties
Length (cm plant-1)
2016 75.33*** 15.22*** 91.16*** 96.89*** 0.75 9.21*** 2.99
2017 134.36*** 0.37 50.47*** 81.47*** 2.92 6.51** 2.31
Surface area (cm2 plant-1)
2016 126.99*** 76.79*** 119.24*** 32.72*** 19.44*** 21.64*** 0.26
2017 231.10*** 70.50*** 128.69*** 37.15*** 9.89*** 53.68*** 5.14*
Diameter (mm)
2016 13.71*** 3.27 39.07*** 0.37 0.75 11.67*** 0.08
2017 59.44*** 11.43** 101.17** 8.40** 2.39 24.83*** 0.02
Volume (cm3 plant-1)
2016 108.79*** 126.57*** 285.66*** 3.20 27.09*** 38.78*** 4.73*
2017 92.89*** 12.01*** 125.09*** 0.06 5.75 18.30*** 1.78

Fig. 1

Effects of N fertilization, straw, and mycorrhizae on maize grain yield, N accumulation, and harvest index M0 represents the control; M1 represents that only AMF hyphae can enter the hyphal chamber from the growth chamber; M2 represents that both roots and AMF can enter the hyphal chamber from the growth chamber. N180S0, N180S1, N360S0, N360S1 represent nitrogen level of 180 kg hm-2 without straw, 180 kg hm-2 and straw, 360 kg hm-2 without straw and 360 kg hm-2 with straw, respectively. In the same year, different lowercase letters within a column indicate significantly differences at P < 0.05 among the treatments."

Table 2

Effects of N fertilization, straw, and mycorrhizae on maize ear properties and soil inorganic N concentration"

Rows per ear
Kernel number
per row
Grain number
per spike
100-grain weight
Soil inorganic N
(mg kg-1)
2016 2017 2016 2017 2016 2017 2016 2017 2016 2017
N180S0M0 13 ab 13 20.38 cd 15 de 265.25 cd 193.25 d 21.09 20.024 b 24.57 j 25.48 f
N180S0M1 13 ab 13 19.75 cd 16.38 cde 255.75 cd 213 cd 21.04 21.04 ab 23.35 ij 24.84 f
N180S0M2 14 ab 14.5 25 ab 18 bcd 350 ab 261.75 abc 22.23 20.52 b 20.34 j 17.31 g
N180S1M0 13 ab 13.5 17.63 d 14.62 e 230 d 197.25 d 19.78 20.45 b 108.05 b 79.35 b
N180S1M1 12.5 b 13 19.75 cd 16.13 cde 247 cd 209.5 cd 22.25 20.97 ab 61.92 d 41.20 cd
N180S1M2 14.5 a 13.5 25 ab 19.13 abc 361.5 ab 257.25 abc 23.05 20.02 b 44.62 f 35.83 de
N360S0M0 14 ab 14 25.25 ab 17.13 cde 353.5 ab 239.75 bcd 23.37 19.79 b 54.99 e 41.39 cd
N360S0M1 13 ab 13 28.88 a 19.38 abc 376 a 252.75 abc 23.54 21.45 ab 36.88 g 34.05 e
N360S0M2 13.5 ab 13 27.38 a 20.5 ab 370.25 ab 266.75 ab 24.25 22.86 a 33.73 h 22.45 fg
N360S1M0 13.5 ab 13.75 22.38 bc 17.38 bcde 303.25 bc 239.63 bcd 20.67 21.39 ab 136.45 a 104.13 a
N360S1M1 13.5 ab 14 22.5 bc 16.13 cde 303 bc 225.75 bcd 22.61 23.09 a 66.11 c 43.61 c
N360S1M2 14.5 a 14 28.63 a 21.38 a 416.25 a 299.25 a 24.04 20.32 b 64.49 cd 40.58 cd
氮肥处理Nitrogen (N) 1.41 0.63 39.22*** 12.99*** 31.23*** 12.19*** 3.84 6.42* 877.83*** 89.78***
秸秆处理Straw (S) 0.35 0.63 5.99* 0.22 2.21 0.001 0.46 0.06 6029.79*** 745.02***
菌根处理Mycorrhizal (M) 5.56** 1.24 17.41*** 14.56*** 20.22*** 13.43** 2.79 3.31* 1636.23*** 349.68***
N × S 0.35 2.04 1.43 0.56 0.37 0.03 0.98 0.13 1.73 0.07
N × M 1.15 1.84 1.37 0.27 1.65 0.48 0.004 0.65 94.09*** 20.84***
S × M 1.15 0.33 2.75 1.88 3.65 0.86 0.96 4.37* 789.02*** 170.99***
N × S × M 0.62 2.35 2.57 0.88 1.34 0.95 0.04 2.28 13.71*** 4.33*

Fig. 2

Effects of N fertilization, straw, and mycorrhizae on maize root, stem, and leaf biomass Treatments are the same as those given in Fig. 1. In the same year, different lowercase letters within a column indicate significant differences at P < 0.05 among the treatments."

Fig. 3

Effects of N fertilization, straw and mycorrhizae on maize root, stem, leaf N accumulation Treatments are the same as those given in Fig. 1. In the same year, different lowercase letters within a column indicate significantly differences at P < 0.05 among the treatments."

Fig. 4

Effects of N fertilization, straw, and mycorrhizae on maize total root length, surface area, diameter, and root volume Treatments are the same as those given in Fig. 1. In the same year, different lowercase letters within a column indicate significant differences at P < 0.05 among the treatments."

Table 3

Pearson’s correlation coef?cients (r) between maize grain yield, harvest index, and grain N accumulation with root parameters, ear traits, biomass, and N accumulation"

Yield (g plant-1)
Harvest index (%)
Grain accumulation (mg plant-1)
2016 2017 2016 2017 2016 2017
Root traits
总根长Length (cm plant-1) 0.69** 0.64** 0.62** 0.19 0.60** 0.62**
根表面积Surface area (cm2 plant-1) 0.84** 0.62** 0.82** 0.04 0.74** 0.56**
根直径Diameter (mm) 0.73** 0.66** 0.62** 0.08 0.66** 0.53**
根体积Volume (cm3 plant-1) 0.83** 0.67** 0.74** 0.05 0.72** 0.59**
Ear traits
穗长Ear length (cm) 0.92** 0.70** 0.86** 0.37* 0.86** 0.68**
穗粗Ear diameter (cm) 0.29* 0.68** 0.22 0.64** 0.17 0.63**
穗行数Rows per ear 0.47** 0.03 0.50** -0.14 0.45** -0.001
行粒数Kernel number per row 0.82** 0.61** 0.74** 0.18 0.77** 0.57**
穗粒数Grain number per spike 0.83** 0.56** 0.77** 0.12 0.77** 0.51**
百粒重100-grain weight (g) 0.16 0.42** 0.12 0.51** 0.15 0.50**
(g plant-1)
根Root 0.78** 0.73** 0.63** 0.14 0.68** 0.59**
茎Stem 0.72** 0.83** 0.51** 0.17 0.67** 0.72**
叶Leaf 0.84** 0.87** 0.67** 0.26 0.79** 0.74**
N accumulation
(mg plant-1)
根Root 0.53** 0.52** 0.46** 0.23 0.49** 0.55**
茎Stem 0.19 0.71** 0.09 0.19 0.25 0.69**
叶Leaf 0.65** 0.61** 0.55** 0.25 0.67** 0.65**

Fig. 5

Structural equation model (SEM) analysis of direct and indirect effects of N fertilization, straw, and mycorrhizae on maize yield The solid and dashed lines represent the positive and negative paths, respectively. The values indicate the path coefficients, and R2 value indicates the correlation coefficient."

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