In order to quantify the contribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi to plant phosphorus nutrition, the development and extent of the external fungal mycelium and its nutrient uptake capacity are of particular importance. We develop and analyse a model of the growth of AM fungi associated with plant roots, suitable for describing mechanistically the effects of the fungi on solute uptake by plants. The model describes the development and distribution of the fungal mycelium in soil in terms of the creation and death of hyphae, tip–tip and tip–hypha anastomosis, and the nature of the root–fungus interface. It is calibrated and corroborated using published experimental data for hyphal length densities at different distances away from root surfaces. A good agreement between measured and simulated values was found for three fungal species with different morphologies: Scutellospora calospora (Nicol. & Gerd.) Walker & Sanders; Glomus sp.; and Acaulospora laevis Gerdemann & Trappe associated with Trifolium subterraneum L. The model and findings are expected to contribute to the quantification of the role of AM fungi in plant mineral nutrition and the interpretation of different foraging strategies among fungal specie
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