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Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi increase grain yields: a meta‐analysis (2019)

Zhang S., Lehmann A., Zheng W., You Z., Rillig M.

New Phytologist, 222 (1), 543-555



  • Increasing grain yields of food cereal crops is a major goal in future sustainable agriculture. We quantitatively analyzed the potential role of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in enhancing grain yields of seven cereal crops with exceptional importance for human nutrition across the globe: corn, wheat, rice, barley, sorghum, millet and oat.
  • We conducted a meta-analysis for three datasets including both English and Chinese language publications: the ‘whole’ dataset including both laboratory and field studies (168 articles); the ‘field’ dataset comprising only field studies (97 studies); and the ‘field-inoculation’ dataset including only AM fungal inoculation studies conducted in field conditions (70 articles).
  • We found that the AM fungal effect on grain yield was less pronounced in field and noninoculation studies. AM fungal inoculation in field led to a 16% increase (overall effect) based on the ‘field-inoculation’ dataset; this effect was variable (77% trials had positive values), crop-specific, lower for new cultivars released after 1950 and further modulated by soil pH.
  • Although there are neutral and negative effects of AM fungi on grain yields, we emphasize the importance of integrating AM fungi in sustainable agriculture to increase grain yields of cereal crops.