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Cedrus atlantica, drought stress, sporal inocula, forest soil
Background: Ectomycorrhizal inoculation is a promising strategy to minimise the initial transplant shock and increase plant survival and growth during the first years of out-planting in the field. The aim of this research was to investigate the effect of sporal inoculum of three ectomycorrhizal fungi: Cortinarius cedretorum, Amanita vaginata and Inocybe geophylla on tolerance levels of Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica (Endl.) Carrière) seedlings subjected to applied drought stress in nursery conditions.
Methods: Carpophores, seeds and organic forest soil were collected under pure stands of Atlas cedar. After fifteen months of growth, seedlings were subjected to drought stress by withholding water for thirty days; we assessed morphological and physiological variables of all seedling batches (inoculated and uninoculated, controlled and stressed seedlings)
Results: All roots of inoculated stressed seedlings were mycorrhizal. The mycorrhization rates were 67%, 64.6% and 53.6% for stressed seedlings inoculated with Cortinarius cedretorum, Amanita vaginata, Inocybe geophylla, respectively. This root mycorrhization was accompanied by a significant improvement in seedling growth, especially height and length of the main root (10.2 cm, 52 cm) reached in stressed seedlings inoculated with Cortinarius cedretorum. There was a significant increase in relative water content, total chlorophyll, carotenoids, soluble sugars and starch, superoxide dismutase and ascorbate peroxydase enzyme activities in inoculated stressed seedlings compared with uninoculated seedlings.
Conclusions: Inoculation of Atlas cedar seedlings with spores of ectomycorrhizal fungi remains a very effective alternative for improving growth and the morphological and physiological status of seedlings under drought conditions. Cortinarius cedretorum appears to be consistently advantageous followed by Amanita vaginata and Inocybe geophylla.