The improvement of plant performance in reduced peat growing media using arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi

Lauren Edwards

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The unsustainable and destructive nature of peat extraction and its extensive use in the horticultural industry requires a suitable alternative to be found. Alternative sources are being considered, but they all have properties that make them unfavourable to both commercial and amateur growers, because of their inconsistent quality and performance. For any of them to succeed in replacing peat, a solution must be found to increase their ability to produce a similar standard of plant performance currently achieved, whilst also providing other benefits which will make these media favourable to growers. The aim of this PhD research was to further test the effects of adding commercial AMF inoculum to reduced peat growing media with commercially relevant plant species in both outdoor and commercial glasshouse style experiments. In both environments, plant performance in each combination of AMF treatment and peat amendment has been directly compared to commercial peat standards. DNA extraction has been used to identify the AMF species responsible and improve understanding on the function of commercial AMF inocula. Results showed that bedding plants grown in bark chip and wood fibre-based growing media were not significantly smaller than those grown in peat, and that the addition of live AMF inoculum significantly reduced the inconsistency in size between plants in both of these treatments. The number of marigold plants showing signs of nutrient stress with purple colouring to the leaves was also reduced with addition of AMF inoculum. In the wood fibre growing media, colonisation by AMF was also found to directly increase the water holding capacity of pots. Molecular work indicated that colonised AMF species varied between different commercial inocula and growing media treatments.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Gange, Alan, Supervisor
  • Stead, Tony, Supervisor
  • Alexander, Paul, Advisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Mycorrhiza
  • Peat

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