In the context of increasing global food demand, ecological intensification of agriculture emerges as an ideal approach to land management. It combines the benefits of intensive and extensive agriculture, enhancing ecosystem services and leading to sustainable ways of production. An ecosystem under ecological intensification has high rates of internal regulation processes, moderate resource inputs, low nutrient losses and high productivity ( Bender et al., 2016 ). Targeted manipulation of soil biota in agricultural systems is starting to be considered a key aspect of ecological intensification and one way out of the main causes of biodiversity loss: soil degradation.

Within soil biota, plant-symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are among the most common organisms able to facilitate plant’s resource use efficiency. It has been suggested that more than 80% of land plants form symbiosis with AMF.This symbiosis not only enhances plant nutrient uptake, but also improves plant growth and influences ecosystem functioning. Intensively-managed agricultural systems have replaced biological functions, which were originally provided by these and other organisms and are now highly dependent on anthropogenic inputs (ie fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation). These inputs in turn restrict the diversity of AMF fungal species and consequently the functionality of ecosystems.

 

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Fields dedicated to agriculture.

 

What are the mechanisms by which below-ground interactions could be optimized if less intensive agricultural management is applied? A recent study by Timothy Bowles (University of California, Berkeley) and colleagues takes a thought-provoking approach to address this question. They conducted a meta-analysis of 54 field studies performed around the world to determine the impacts on the AMF community of the use of low-intensity tillage regimes and cover crops. The survey assessed how these two management techniques affect AMF colonization rates on cash crop roots, also considering the change in AMF community composition.

The study found that less intensive tillage and winter cover crops similarly increased (nearly 30%) AMF root colonization of summer annual cash crop roots compared to intensive tillage and winter fallow periods. Intense tillage constitutes a soil disturbance with negative effects on AMF hyphal networks and consequent reductions in root colonization. Interestingly, cover crops increased AMF colonization similarly whether tillage was used or not. These results suggest that when a crop cover is used in these systems, AMF formation in the cash crop apparently can resist some tillage. From a management perspective, this may have strong implications in agricultural systems where tillage is required for weed control and organic matter incorporation into the soil. Additionally, when AMF community composition was analyzed, The authors did not find a strong effect of winter cover cropping or less intensive tillage. Although the arrival of different AMF species could be slow after a change in soil disturbance, the role of fungal resistance structures could remain in the soil and take advantage of the disturbance to germinate is still unclear. The authors also found increased colonization even when the cover crop used was a non-AMF host, so the role of weeds might also be important. AMF diversity is still unanswered questions. AMF is a non-profit organization. So far we know, according to this study,

 

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Soil degradation is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss.

 

 

Modern agriculture will benefit from a more comprehensive consideration of below-ground ecological processes. For example, it would be relevant to know how different ecological functions are distributed within different functional groups of soil biota. Loss of some particular AMF species or group of species due to some agricultural practices may have profound changes in soil functioning. In this sense, it is still unclear whether or not root colonization translates into better plant performance as there might be functional complementarity and redundancy among species within the AMF community colonizing a single root system. The advance of molecular techniques in recent years allows us to have a clear idea of ​​fungal composition and opens many new ecological questions with applied implications. Funding for agricultural research is also needed, especially in countries where ecosystem services are endangered by intensive agricultural practices. The so-called underground revolution (see Bender et al., 2016 ) will start when we are able to integrate ecological knowledge of below-ground interactions with management applications that could reduce human impact on ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology these ideas have begun to take root. 2016) will start when we are able to integrate ecological knowledge of below-ground interactions with management applications that could reduce human impact on ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology these ideas have begun to take root. 2016) will start when we are able to integrate ecological knowledge of below-ground interactions with management applications that could reduce human impact on ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology these ideas have begun to take root.

In a context of growing food demand worldwide, ecological intensification emerges as an ideal approach to agricultural systems management. By accentuating and making use of the ecosystem services that a given system offers, it leads to sustainable forms of production, combined with the benefits of intensive and extensive agriculture. An ecosystem under ecological intensification has high rates of internal regulation, moderate external resource input, low nutrient loss, and high productivity ( Bender et al., 2016 ). The manipulation of soil biota in agricultural systems is beginning to be seen as a key aspect of ecological intensification and an outlet to address one of the main causes of global biodiversity loss:

Among the organisms that compose soil biota, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are capable of facilitating the efficient use of resources by plants. It is believed that more than 80% of terrestrial plants establish a symbiotic relationship with AMF. This symbiosis not only facilitates the absorption of nutrients by plants, but also improves their growth and influences the functioning of ecosystems.Agricultural systems that use intensive management practices have replaced the biological functions originally provided by these and other organisms, becoming highly dependent on anthropogenic inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, artificial irrigation). These changes, in turn,

What are the mechanisms by which biotic interactions that occur underground can be optimized in a less intensive agricultural management scenario? A recent study by Timothy Bowles (University of California, Berkeley) and his colleagues suggests a novel approach to address this question. The authors carried out a meta-analysis that included 54 field studies conducted worldwide to determine the community impacts of MFA caused by the use of low intensity tillage regimes and cover crops. The study evaluated how these two management techniques affect the rates of MFA colonization in commercial crop roots, taking into account, in turn, the change in the composition of the MPA community.

The study found that the use of less intensive tillage methods and the use of cover crops during the winter increases similarly (almost 30%) the percentage of MFA colonization in annual commercial crops compared to intensive tillage And fallow periods during the winter. Intensive tillage constitutes a soil disturbance with negative effects on AMF hyphae networks and, consequently, would lead to a reduction of root colonization in crops. Plainly, the authors saw that the use of cover crops increases the root colonization of commercial crops in the same way whether or not tillage is used. These results suggest that when a hedge crop is used in these systems, The colonization of AMF in the commercial crop apparently can withstand tillage. From an applied perspective, this can have important repercussions in farming systems that rely on tillage as a mechanism for weed control and the incorporation of organic matter in the soil. On the other hand, there was no clear effect of winter cover crops or less intensive tillage on the composition of the MFA community. In this sense, although the arrival of different species of MFA could be slow after a disturbance in the soil, the role of fungal resistance structures that could remain in the soil and take advantage of the conditions generated by the disturbance in order to germinate Still unclear. The authors also found an increase in the percentage of root colonization even when the cover crop used was not an AMF host, so the role of weeds could also be important. There is a possibility that the presence of weeds will be sufficient to ensure colonization of AMF from commercial crops. Similarly, crop rotation and diversification are other agricultural practices that could influence MFA diversity, but it is still unknown how. From this study, it can be concluded that the use of cover crops and the reduction in soil disturbance through less intensive tillage are possible strategies for farmers to increase MFA colonization in a wide range of commercial crops.

 

Modern agriculture will benefit from a broader consideration of the ecological processes that occur underground. For example, it would be relevant to know how different ecological functions are distributed among the different functional groups of mycorrhizal fungi. Loss of species or groups of MFA species due to agricultural management practices could lead to profound changes in soil functioning. At the same time, it is not entirely clear whether a greater colonization of the roots of a given crop necessarily translates into a better yield of the same, since there may be functional complementarity and redundancy among AMF species that colonize a single root system. The advancement of molecular techniques in recent years allows a clearer idea of ​​the diversity of soil microorganisms and enables the formulation of these and new questions with implications in applied ecology. Funds are also needed for agricultural research, especially in countries where ecosystem services are at risk, in part because of intensive farming practices. So-called “underground revolution” ( Bender et al. 2016 ) will begin when we are able to integrate the ecological knowledge of interactions that occur in the soil with applied management and management strategies that can reduce the human impact on the ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology, these ideas have already begun to take root. Funds are needed for agricultural research, especially in countries where ecosystem services are at risk, in part because of intensive farming practices. So-called “underground revolution” ( Bender et al. 2016 ) will begin when we are able to integrate the ecological knowledge of interactions that occur in the soil with applied management and management strategies that can reduce the human impact on the ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology, these ideas have already begun to take root. Funds are needed for agricultural research, especially in countries where ecosystem services are at risk, in part because of intensive farming practices. So-called “underground revolution” ( Bender et al. 2016 ) will begin when we are able to integrate the ecological knowledge of interactions that occur in the soil with applied management and management strategies that can reduce the human impact on the ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology, these ideas have already begun to take root. So-called “underground revolution” ( Bender et al. 2016 ) will begin when we are able to integrate the ecological knowledge of interactions that occur in the soil with applied management and management strategies that can reduce the human impact on the ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology, these ideas have already begun to take root. So-called “underground revolution” ( Bender et al. 2016 ) will begin when we are able to integrate the ecological knowledge of interactions that occur in the soil with applied management and management strategies that can reduce the human impact on the ecosystems. In the case of AMF ecology, these ideas have already begun to take root.