The influence of tillage practices on native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) was studied in two, consecutive years in eastern Canada, in two 11 year-old long-term tillage-fertilizer experimental field soils, a sandy loam and a clay, growing corn in monoculture. The three tillage practices were: 1) conventional tillage (CT; fall plowing plus spring disking), reduced tillage (RT; spring disking) and no-till (NT). The corn crop received either inorganic (N and K) or organic (liquid dairy manure) fertilizers. Mycorrhizal hyphal density was estimated from soil samples obtained in early spring (before disking), at the 12–14 leaf stage, at silking, and at harvest. The percentage of corn root colonization by AMF at the 12–14 leaf stage, at silking and at harvest was also determined. The sandy loam was sampled over two consecutive seasons and the clay soil over one season.
Densities of total and metabolically active soil hyphae, and mycorrhizal root colonization were significantly lower in CT soil than in RT and NT soil. Lowest soil hyphal densities were observed in early spring. The levels of intra- and extraradical fungal colonization always increased from spring to silking and decreased thereafter. Spring disking had only a small and transient negative effect on hyphal abundance in soil. Fertilization did not influence mycorrhizal colonization of corn or abundance of soil hyphae in the sandy loam soil, but in the clay soil metabolically active hyphae were more abundant with manure application than with mineral fertilization. In 1992, in both soils different tillage systems had same grain yield, however, in 1993, corn yield was higher in NT compared to CT system.