Comparing Vesicular-Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Colonization in Conventional versus Organic Strawberry Production Systems
During the 2003 field season we collected strawberry plant material from research plots and working farms. We are in the process of observing mycorrhizal colonization by microscopic techniques and performing leaf tissue analyses. The data will be analyzed to determine levels of mycorrhizal colonization among different management systems and among different strawberry cultivars. We will also use biomass measurements to determine potential mycorrhizal effects on plant growth among different management systems and cultivars.
1- Compare effects of various strawberry management strategies on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF)
2-Increase grower awareness of soil system and its biotic components, focusing on AMF
3-Facilitate grower discussions
All required plant material has been collected and data collection is under way. As of December 2003, mycorrhizal colonization has been scored for one of three sample dates. Plant biomass has been measured for all samples and leaf tissue analyses are in progress. When the required data is obtained the statistical analysis will be completed. A final report will be written and results consolidated into a 1-2 page online University of Minnesota Extension document.
The growers participating in the study received substantial information packets regarding AMF ecology and the symbiosis between plants and AMF, in addition to verbal information through conversations with the researchers. The growers who participated in the study will attend at least one grower feed back session where they will be able to see microscope slides of the mycorrhizal organisms on their particular farms. Non-participating growers have been updated on the project via newsletters. An educational seminar and preliminary results will be presented at the upcoming Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association meeting in February 2004.
The grower feedback session will allow participating farmers to view preliminary results and discuss implications in terms of farming methods, economic returns, feasibility, etc.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Ultimately, this project will provide growers with more insight into the soil ecosystem and how it is affected by agricultural practices. Through the example of AMF in strawberries, the project’s educational components will highlight the presence and importance of the soil community, which many growers may not consider in overall farm management plans. Although the information will be focused on AMF in strawberry systems its applicability to other production systems will be emphasized.
Growers can access information via seminars and extension documents and use this information to make management decisions which optimize AMF health. While management strategies may take infinite forms based on individual farms some examples might include reduced phosphorus application and subsequent reduced leaching; reduced tillage and subsequent reduced erosion and compaction; increased cover cropping; or reduced fungicide use. These changes will benefit the farmer in terms of reduced costs and potential higher returns. In addition, the environmental benefits will serve both consumers and the farming community.
Bauer Berry Farm
Pine Tree Apple Orchard
Coyote Grange Farm
UMN West Central Research and Outreach Center
University of Minnesota