- Bacillus thuringiensis--Toxicology,
- Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizas,
- Plant spores,
The cultivation of genetically engineered Bacillus thuringiensis toxin-expressing (Bt) maize continues to increase worldwide, yet the effects of Bt crops on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in soil are poorly understood. In this field experiment, we investigated the impact of seven different genotypes of Bt maize and five corresponding non-Bt parental cultivars on AMF and evaluated plant growth responses at three different physiological time points. Plants were harvested 60 days (active growth), 90 days (tasseling and starting to produce ears), and 130 days (maturity) after sowing, and data on plant growth responses and percent AMF colonization of roots at each harvest were collected. Spore abundance and diversity were also evaluated at the beginning and end of the field season to determine whether the cultivation of Bt maize had a negative effect on AMF propagules in the soil. Plant growth and AMF colonization did not differ between Bt and non-Bt maize at any harvest period, but AMF colonization was positively correlated with leaf chlorophyll content at the 130-day harvest. Cultivation of Bt maize had no effect on spore abundance and diversity in Bt versus non-Bt plots over one field season. Plot had the most significant effect on total spore counts, indicating spatial heterogeneity in the field. Although previous greenhouse studies demonstrated that AMF colonization was lower in some Bt maize lines, our field study did not yield the same results, suggesting that the cultivation of Bt maize may not have an impact on AMF in the soil ecosystem under field conditions.