Comparing the effectiveness of native and commercial mycorrhizal fungi in establishing and colonizing plants in an urban prairie habitat in Chicago

Prairie restorations are less diverse than remnant prairies, partly because some species are difficult to establish. Restoring soil microbes may increase success of prairie restorations. A prairie habitat in Chicago was designed to investigate whether adding mycorrhizal fungi to soil improves survival and growth of prairie plants in a restoration. Seedlings of four species of prairie plants were inoculated with one of three types of inoculum (uninoculated soil, fungi from remnant prairies, or fungi sold commercially). These “nurse plants” were transplanted into plots. To investigate whether mycorrhizal fungi spread from the inoculated plants, uninoculated Sporobolus heterolepis (“test plants”) were planted alongside inoculated plants. Survival and growth of nurse and test plants were measured during the year of planting and the following year. Plants inoculated with native prairie fungi survived and grew better than plants inoculated with commercial fungi. Native prairie fungi also increased growth of neighboring test plants.

Subject Matter Level: 
Saturday, January 16, 2016 - 10:00am to 10:50am
Sarah Richardson
DePaul University
Sarah Richardson is from DePaul University.
Presentation File: 
Other presenters/researchers: 
Corey Palmer, Northwestern University; Elizabeth Middleton, Missouri Department of Conservation; James D. Bever, Indiana University; Peggy Schultz, Indiana University; Zhanna Yermakov, Chicago Park District