Sally Smith contrasted the ‘traditional’ view of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi with emerging views of their ‘hidden’ contributions, which are only now being demonstrated using modern molecular methods.
The conference honoured Sally Smith who has had a distinguished career in soil science at The University of Adelaide. She spoke about new understanding of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi for which she is has received international acclaim. She is also the co-author of the major scientific book on mycorrhizas which is now in its third edition. After explaining mycorrhizas to the audience, Sally contrasted the ‘traditional’ view of these plant-root associations with emerging ‘hidden’ contributions which are only now being demonstrated using modern molecular methods. The new methods make it possible to separate pathways of phosphate uptake by roots from uptake pathways along hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi. This hidden contribution has been shown for wheat but it contradicts the commonly held view that mycorrhizas have little relevance to this crop. She concluded that investigations of how plant and fungal associations work in plant communities in natural environments could hold the key to understanding their contributions in agricultural systems. There are many opportunities for further investigations of these plant-microbe interactions.
Smith S (2006) Keynote Presentation at the Combined National Conference on Soils, Adelaide, Dec 2006.