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Improving Crop Yield and Nutrient Use Efficiency via Biofertilization - A Global Meta-analysis

Authors: Lukas Schütz, Andreas Gattinger, Matthias Meier, Adrian Müller, Thomas Boller, Paul Mäder and Natarajan Mathimaran

Journal Title: Frontiers in Plant Science

ISSN: 1664-462X (Online)

Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.

The application of microbial inoculants (biofertilizers) is a promising technology for future sustainable farming systems in view of rapidly decreasing phosphorus stocks and the need to more efficiently use available nitrogen (N). Various microbial taxa are currently used as biofertilizers, based on their capacity to access nutrients from fertilizers and soil stocks, to fix atmospheric nitrogen, to improve water uptake or to act as biocontrol agents. Despite the existence of a considerable knowledge on effects of specific taxa of biofertilizers, a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the performance of biofertilizers with different traits such as phosphorus solubilization and N fixation applied to various crops at a global scale is missing. We conducted a meta-analysis to quantify benefits of biofertilizers in terms of yield increase, nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiency, based on 171 peer reviewed publications that met eligibility criteria. Major findings are: (i) the superiority of biofertilizer performance in dry climates over other climatic regions (yield response: dry climate +20.0 ± 1.7%, tropical climate +14.9 ± 1.2%, oceanic climate +10.0 ± 3.7%, continental climate +8.5 ± 2.4%); (ii) meta-regression analyses revealed that yield response due to biofertilizer application was generally small at low soil P levels; efficacy increased along higher soil P levels in the order arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), P solubilizers, and N fixers; (iii) meta-regressions showed that the success of inoculation with AMF was greater at low organic matter content and at neutral pH. Our comprehensive analysis provides a basis and guidance for proper choice and application of biofertilizers.

Illustration Photo: Sunflower field (CC0 Creative Commons from Pixabay.com)

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