Agronomy for Sustainable Development (2015) 35, 1511-1519

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Lea Megali, Benjamin Schlau and Sergio Rasmann (2015)
Soil microbial inoculation increases corn yield and insect attack
Agronomy for Sustainable Development 35 (4), 1511-1519
Abstract: Effective Microorganisms (EM®) is a "biofertiliser" soil inoculant, marketed as a crop yield enhancer. However, the literature has neither comprehensively reviewed its purported effects on harvests across multiple species nor investigated its effects on plant herbivore defence other than this group's previous research on tomatoes. Here a meta-analysis of 39 journal articles and a greenhouse experiment with nine crop species afforded a nuanced assessment of Effective Microorganisms' effects on plant growth and yield. Overall, in line with predictions, Effective Microorganisms showed significant positive effect on yield and growth (0.03 effect sizes increase) in the meta-analysis, and increased growth 16 % in the greenhouse, but with strong, and at times negative, species-specific responses. An additional potential benefit of Effective Microorganisms includes increased defence against herbivore attack, but inoculated corn (Zea mays) in a field and a greenhouse experiment exhibited decreased defences. Specifically, the field experiment demonstrated that Effective Microorganisms treatment corresponded to a 26 % reduction in predatory insect diversity on corn plants, while not improving growth or yield but did increase water uptake. A subsequent greenhouse experiment suggested likely physiological mechanisms behind the loss of predator diversity. When non-inoculated control corn plants were set upon by caterpillars of the herbivorous insect Spodoptera littoralis, the plants increased production of defensive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 272 %. Surprisingly, inoculation with Effective Microorganisms rendered greenhouse corn plants 51 % more palatable to S. littoralis. Further localised studies are, therefore, needed to efficiently incorporate Effective Microorganisms with either conventional or sustainable agricultural management systems.
(The abstract is excluded from the Creative Commons licence and has been copied with permission by the publisher.)
Link to article at publishers website


Database assignments for author(s): Sergio Rasmann

Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:
environment - cropping system/rotation


Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.
Spodoptera littoralis Maize/corn (Zea mays)