Seasonal ectomycorrhizal fungal biomass development on loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) seedlings
Ergosterol, a membrane sterol found in fungi but not in plants, was used to estimate live mycelia biomass in ectomycorrhizae. Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) seeds were sown in April 1993 and grown with standard nursery culture ractices. Correlations between total seedling ergosterol and visual assessment of mycorrhizal colonization were high during July and August but low as ectomycorrhizal development continued into the growing season. Percentages of mycelial dry weight over lateral roots decreased from 9% in July to 2.5% in November because seedling lateral root dry weight accumulated faster than mycelial dry weight. Total ergosterol per seedling increased from July through February. As lateral root dry weight ceased to increase during winter months, ectomycorrhizal mycelia became the major carbohydrate sink of pine seedlings. No distinctive seasonal pattern of soil ergosterol content was observed. The impact of ectomycorrhizal fungi on plant carbohydrate source-sink dynamics can be quantitatively estimated with ergosterol analysis but not with conventional visual determination.