University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Ground covers have the potential to impact the crop rhizosphere biology, which includes organisms such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), which in turn affect the crop host plant through symbiosis. There has been evidence that a ground cover that provides a suitable environment for colonization of AMF and subsequent symbiosis could be a tool in organic fruit production. The objective of this research was to compare colonization of AMF in strawberry plant (Frageria x ananassa cv. Radiance) and apple rootstocks (Malus x domestica, cv. M. 26) grown in a greenhouse affected by various ground cover treatments. Inoculation was achieved by mixing BioOrganics™ Endomycorrhizal Inoculant directly into soilless media according to label rates. Following a dormancy period, plants were treated with one of the following ground cover treatments: 1) city-generated urban green-compost (GC), 2) shredded white paper, 3) urban refuse wood chips or 4) an untreated control. The GC ground cover significantly increased percent colonization of AMF compared to other ground covers; however, AMF infection did not affect plant biomass, root volume, root surface area, root diameter, or leaf area. The AMF suppressed root length; plants inoculated with AMF had shorter roots but similar root volume to compared to non-inoculated plants. The GC treatment may have disproportionately contributed more nutrition by media composition of a smaller particle size and a decreased lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose content compared to other ground cover treatments. Though the ground covers in this study had no effect on symbiotic AMF benefits, long-term studies with mature host plants could reveal a correlation between ground cover media and symbiosis.