Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Sciences and Engineering
Biotechnology | Integrative Biology
Agriculturists continually look for ways to improve the nutrient content of crops without decreasing yield or economic benefits. Mutualistic relationships have the potential to enhance the nutrient content without sacrificing the production needs of the farmer. Mutualisms occur when two or more species interact and both members of the association benefit. An exceedingly important and often overlooked mutualism is the one formed between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and plants. This interaction has been shown to be a critical component of most ecosystems, yet our understanding of these relationships is still limited. We know that in exchange for photosynthetically derived carbon, AMF help to increase plant nutrient uptake. However, the potential of AMF to improve the crop nutrient content relative to human health is relatively unstudied. Optimal levels of mutualistic activity could increase efficiency in agriculture, and these advancements would improve the economic and environmental impacts of agriculture.
To assess the benefits of AMF on crop nutritional value, I designed a greenhouse experiment that tested the effect of AMF inoculation on carrots planted in nutrient deficient sand. I used two AMF species, Rhizophagus clarus and Rhizophagus intraradices and compared the effect of carrots grown with these AMF species individually, both together, and without AMF. I examined above- and belowground biomass as well as the levels of beta-carotene and a suite of minerals. The results showed that carrots grown with both AMF species had increased biomass, aluminum, phosphorous, and zinc levels and showed trends of increased beta-carotene. This suggests that AMF application in agriculture could increase the availability of nutrient dense crops and help sustain the global food supply.
Malone, Margo, "Improving the Nutrient Content of Agriculture Crops Through Community Ecology" (2016). Honors Capstone Projects - All. 953.
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