Colonization of blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) plantlets by ericoid mycorrhizae under nursery conditions

The ericoid mycorrhiza is a symbiotic interaction that contributes to the improvement of the establishment and production of blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). The objectives of this paper were to assess the frequency (%) and intensity (%) of the colonization and growth of blueberry plantlets inoculated with ericoid mycorrhizae collected from three different edaphoclimatic conditions in the La Araucania region of southern Chile under nursery conditions. Plantlets of three blueberry cultivars ('Brigitta', 'Duke' and 'Legacy') were grown under nursery conditions in sterile peat moss and a vermiculite substrate with fresh ericoid mycorrhizae propagules from Gaultheria pumila (collected in Villarrica National Park), Azalea sp., (from an urban garden in Temuco) or V. corymbosum cv. 'Brigitta' (from an organic farm in Temuco). After six months, the development of hyphae characteristic of ericoid micorrhizal fungi was identified in root cells. The frequency and intensity of colonization was greater in the 'Duke' cv. given the inoculum derived from V. corymbosum, followed by the 'Brigitta' and 'Legacy' cultivars treated with inoculum from the G. pumila inoculum. Colonization was lowest in those plants treated with the Azalea sp. inoculum. Contact between the inoculum sources and the fine roots of the micro-propagated blueberry plantlets under nursery conditions for six months was an effective method to promote mycorrhization. However, the development of mycorrhizae did not enhance the growth of the three blueberry cultivars during the evaluation period. The possibility of selecting ericoid inocula from site-specific conditions in southern Chile may eventually be used to support the micro-propagation of blueberry plantlets during acclimation and planting, assuming that mycorrhizal plants will improve conditions for establishment in the field.

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