Plant and Soil

, Volume 406, Issue 1–2, pp 173–185 | Cite as

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi contribute to overyielding by enhancing crop biomass while suppressing weed biomass in intercropping systems

  • Xu Qiao
  • ShuiKuan Bei
  • HaiGang Li
  • Peter Christie
  • FuSuo Zhang
  • JunLing Zhang
Regular Article


Background and aims

Intercropping often produces more biomass than the average of the corresponding monocultures, particularly in sustainable, low-input agriculture. Characterizing plant-plant interactions is fundamental for a better understanding of the ecological functioning of intercropping. However, there is little information on whether mycorrhizal networks exhibit different effects upon intra- and interspecific plant interactions in intercropping systems.


Microcosms with one inner and three outer compartments were used. The inner compartment was separated from the outer compartments by a 30-μm nylon mesh or a solid barrier or remained open to allow full interactions between plants grown in the different compartments, creating three treatments, namely −Roots−CMNs (solid barrier), −Roots+CMNs (mesh), and +Roots+CMNs (no barrier). Either faba bean (Vicia faba) or maize (Zea mays) was grown as the donor plant in the inner compartment. Maize was combined with maize, wheat (Triticum aestivum) or the weed species foxtail (Setaria viridis) as the neighboring plant species. Faba bean was combined with faba bean, maize, or foxtail. The low-P soil was inoculated with the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF) Funneliformis mosseae or remained uninoculated.


In the absence of AMF, plant growth was restricted by P deficiency and root interactions did not significantly affect plant-plant interactions. The presence of AMF enhanced plant biomass (maize by 104.5 %, faba bean by 61.6 %) and nutrient (N and P) uptake. Significant overyielding occurred in treatments where roots and hyphal networks of all plant species intermingled. The weed (foxtail) was suppressed by interspecific interactions while maize and faba bean benefitted from a mycorrhizal network and the presence of intermingling roots.


In low-P soils, mycorrhizal networks contribute to overyielding in intercropping by enhancing the biomass and nutrient uptake of the mycorrhiza-dependent plant species. The biomass depression of weed species by AMF and/or root interactions may have ecological implications in weed control in intercropping systems.


Mycorrhizal networks Phosphorus Intercropping Faba bean Maize Setaria viridis Wheat 



This work was funded by the International Cooperation and Exchanges Projects of NSFC (31210103906), the National Basic Research Program (973-2015CB150405), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 31272251 and 31421092). The AMF inoculum was kindly provided by Professor Youshan Wang, Institute of Plant Nutrition and Resources, Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Research, China.

Supplementary material

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Table S1 (DOC 43 kb)
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Table S2 (DOC 60 kb)
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Table S3 (DOC 75 kb)
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Table S4 (DOC 75 kb)
11104_2016_2863_MOESM5_ESM.doc (43 kb)
Fig. S1 (DOC 43 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xu Qiao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • ShuiKuan Bei
    • 1
    • 2
  • HaiGang Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter Christie
    • 1
    • 2
  • FuSuo Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • JunLing Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Centre for Resources, Environment and Food Security, College of Resources and Environmental SciencesChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Plant-Soil InteractionsMinistry of EducationBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Grain GroupsXinjiang Academy of Agricultural SciencesUrumqiChina
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Crop Ecophysiology and Farming Systems in Desert Oasis RegionMinistry of AgricultureUrumqiChina
  5. 5.Department of Plant NutritionChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina

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