The development of an in vitro system to assess the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on cereal crops in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Cereal crops such as maize and sorghum are economically important in South Africa (SA) as a staple food diet. In order to meet the needs of South Africa’s growing population, higher yields in crop production need to be attained. However, the two major stress factors that affect yield production and require primary attention are nutrient deficiencies and pest infestations. Research is now being focused on certain endophytes that have become a valuable tool for agriculture as they protect crops against the above-mentioned stresses. The endophyte focused on in this study was Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). This research was aimed at developing an in vitro culture system for SA cereal crops to enable interaction studies of endophytes. This dissertation is divided into two parts; the first part focused on the development of an in vitro culture system, the assessment of sorghum plant growth and exudate production in the presence of the Glomus intraradices strain. The results indicated that sorghum produces the required root exudates in the second stage of growth. Using high pressure liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS), it was noted that sorghum produced phytochemicals as chemoattractants for the respective endophytes. However, it was documented that when the plant underwent certain stresses they produced exudates, which acted as phytotoxic compounds that destroyed symbiotic organisms around sorghum rhizophere. The second part focused on optimization of the surface sterilization of maize seeds. The results indicated that maize contained unidentified endophytes, which negatively affected plant development. Surface sterilization of maize seeds was accomplished. The successful in vitro development can be used for future use to study plant development. Understanding plant development and interaction with symbiotic endophytes would not only be of great benefit but would also make it easier to create a biocontrol agent in vitro, which would bring about high crop yields at cost-effective prices and would be less labour intensive.