Early events in the life of apple roots: Variation in root growth rate is linked to mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal fungal colonization

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Early events of mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal fungal colonization in newly-emerging roots of mature apple (Malus domestica Borkh) trees were characterized to determine the relationship of these events to fine root growth rate and development. New roots were traced on root windows to measure growth and then collected and stained to quantify microscopically the presence of mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal fungal structures. Most new roots were colonized by either mycorrhizal or nonmycorrhizal fungi but none less 25 days old were ever internally colonized by both. Compared to nonmycorrhizal colonization, mycorrhizal colonization was associated with faster growing roots and roots that grew for a longer duration, leading to longer roots. While either type of fungi was observed in roots as soon as 3 days after root emergence, intraradical colonization by mycorrhizal fungi was generally faster (peaking at 7 to 15 days) than that by nonmycorrhizal fungi and often occurred more frequently in younger roots. Only 15 to 35% of the roots had no fungal colonization by 30 days after emergence. This study provides the first detailed examination of the early daily events of mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal fungal colonization in newly emerging roots under field conditions. We observed marked discrimination of roots between mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal fungi and provide evidence that mycorrhizal fungi may select for faster growing roots and possibly influence the duration of root growth by non-nutritional means.

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