Effect of nitrogen on fungal growth efficiency

D.P. Di Lonardo, A van der Wal, P Harkes, W de Boer

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The contribution of fungi to carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling is related to their growth efficiency (amount of biomass produced per unit of substrate utilized). The concentration and availability of N influences the activity and growth efficiency of saprotrophic fungi. When N is scarce in soils, fungi have to invest more energy to obtain soil N, which could result in lower growth efficiencies. Yet, the effect of N on growth efficiencies of individual species of fungi in soil has not been studied extensively. In this study we investigated the influence of different concentrations of mineral N on the growth efficiency of two common soil fungi, Trichoderma harzanium and Mucor hiemalis in a soil-like environment. We hypothesized that a higher N availability will coincide with higher biomass production and growth efficiency. To test this, we measured fungal biomass production as well as the respiration fluxes in sand microcosms amended with cellobiose and mineral N at different C:N ratios. We found that for both fungal species lower C:N ratios resulted in the highest biomass production as well as the highest growth efficiency. This may imply that when N is applied concurrently with a degradable C source, a higher amount of N will be temporarily immobilized into fungal biomass.

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