Nitrogen Transfer Within and Between Plants Through Common Mycorrhizal Networks (CMNs)

Xinhua He, C. Critchley, C. Bledsoe

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    224 Citations (Scopus)


    Mycorthizae play a critical role in nutrient capture from soils. Arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) and ectomycorrhizae (EM) are the most important mycorrhizae in agricultural and natural ecosystems. AM and EM fungi use inorganic NH4+ and NO3-, and most EM fungi are capable of using organic nitrogen. The heavier stable isotope N-15 is discriminated against during biogeochemical and biochemical processes. Differences in N-15 (atom%) or delta(15)N (parts per thousand) provide nitrogen movement information in an experimental system. A range of 20 to 50% of one-way N-transfer has been observed from legumes to nonlegumes.Mycorrhizal fungal mycelia can extend from one plant's roots to another plant's roots to form common mycorrhizal networks (CMNs). Individual species, genera, even families of plants can be interconnected by CMNs. They are capable of facilitating nutrient uptake and flux. Nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus and other elements may then move via either AM or EM networks from plant to plant.Both N-15 labeling and N-15 natural abundance techniques have been employed to trace N movement between plants interconnected by AM or EM networks. Fine mesh (25similar to45 mum) has been used to separate root systems and allow only hyphal penetration and linkages but no root contact between plants. In many studies, nitrogen from N-2-fixing mycorrhizal plants transferred to non-N-2-fixing mycorrhizal plants (one-way N-transfer). In a few studies, N is also transferred from non-N-2-fixing mycorrhizal plants to N-2-fixing mycorrhizal plants (two-way N-transfer). There is controversy about whether N-transfer is direct through CMNs, or indirect through the soil. The lack of convincing data underlines the need for creative, careful experimental manipulations. Nitrogen is crucial to productivity in most terrestrial ecosystems, and there are potential benefits of management in soil-plant systems to enhance N-transfer. Thus, two-way N-transfer warrants further investigation with many species and under field conditions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)531-567
    JournalCritical Reviews in Plant Sciences
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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