Response of a wild-type and modern cowpea cultivars to arbuscular mycorrhizal inoculation in sterilized and non-sterilized soil
Oruru, Marjorie Bonareri
Njeru, Ezekiel Mugendi
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Cowpea is an important crop that serves as a legume and vegetable source to many smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Soil fertility is a significant limitation to its production thus; inoculation with beneficial soil biota such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) could improve its performance. However, plant–AMF interaction could vary based on crop cultivar hence affecting overall crop production. The present study aimed at determining the effect of AMF inoculation and soil sterilization on root colonization and growth of a wild-type and three modern cowpea cultivars grown by smallholder farmers in Kenya. Potted cowpea plants were inoculated with a commercial AMF inoculum comprising of Rhizophagus irregularis, Funneliformis mosseae, Glomus aggregatum and Glomus etunicatum and maintained in a greenhouse for 40 days. After harvesting, mycorrhizal colonization, nodule number and dry weight, root and shoot dry weights, nitrogen (N,) phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) content were determined. Interestingly, the modern cultivars showed significantly (p < 0.001) higher root colonization, nodulation, shoot P and N compared to the wild-type cultivar. Moreover, a strong positive correlation between AMF root colonization and shoot P (r2 D 0.73, 0.90, p < 0.001), AMF root colonization and shoot N (r2 D 0.78; 0.89, p < 0.001) was observed in both sterilized and non-sterilized soil, respectively. Soil sterilization affected root colonization and growth parameters with plants grown in non-sterilized soil performing better than those grown in sterilized soil. This study provides major evidence that modern cowpea cultivars are still responsive to mycorrhizal inoculation suggesting that modern breeding programs are not deleterious AMF symbiosis.