In the present study, carried out in South-eastern Spain, a commercial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF; Glomus iranicum var. tenuihypharum sp. nova) was introduced through drip irrigation to inoculate Crimson grapevines. Their effects on the physiological and nutritional activity were evaluated for 2 years (2011–12). Additionally, during the second year of experimentation, the persistence of mycorrhizae on the grapevine and their effects were innovatively analysed. The AMF satisfactorily colonized the Crimson grapevine roots, improved the plants water status, induced an improvement in the photosynthetic performance that increased the water use efficiency, promoted the uptake of phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and calcium (Ca) and led to a mobilization of starch reserves in the apex in winter, which was possibly responsible for enhancing root development. Moreover, inoculated plants had significantly increased yield and improved quality of grapes, which led to early grape maturation. Overall, the persistent effect of AMF during the second year produced similar positive effects, although to a lesser extent, to those obtained in the inoculated treatment. The results found in the present study show that this AMF application technique can be recommended for sustainable agriculture in arid and semi-arid areas. Moreover, as a result of the competition with the native mycorrhizae, periodic monitoring of the percentage of mycorrhizal colonization and re-inoculation in order to obtain all the positive effects evidenced in the inoculated treatment is recommended.
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