Coating seeds with endophytic fungi enhances growth, nutrient uptake, yield and grain quality of winter wheat

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Department of Agriculture, Forestry, Nature and Energy, University of Tuscia, via San Camillo De Lellis snc, 01100 Viterbo, Italy

2 Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, Via Università 100, 80055 Portici, Italy

3 Atens Agrotecnologias Naturales S.L., 43762 La Riera de Gaia, Tarragona, Spain.

4 Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l'analisi dell'economia agraria, Centro di ricerca per lo studio delle relazioni tra pianta e suolo, 00184 Roma, Italy.


The aim of this study was to assess whether seed coating with microbial
consortium based on the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus Glomus intraradices
BEG72, Glomus mossae and Trichoderma atroviride MUCL 45632 could improve
seedling establishment, yield and grain quality (protein content and mineral
composition) of wheat (Triticum durum Desf.). As a first step, a laboratory
experiment was conducted in a growth chamber to verify the capability of seed
coating with endophytic fungi to promote emergence and plant growth of wheat
seedlings. Two additional experiments were carried out under open field
conditions, to evaluate the effects of coating with beneficial fungi on SPAD index,
chlorophyll fluorescence, yield, grain quality and mineral composition of winter
wheat. In the growth chamber experiment, 17 days after sowing, the SPAD index,
the number of leaves, shoot and root dry biomass of seedlings were significantly
higher by 10.0%, 28.6%, 23.1% and 64.2%, in coated as compared to uncoated
wheat seeds. In the open field trials, use of the uncoated seeds led to a significant
reduction in grain yield by 24.3% and 7.7%, during the first and second growing
season, respectively, compared to the coated seeds. Grain quality of wheat, in
particular protein content, K, P, Fe and Zn concentrations were improved by AM
fungi and Trichoderma inoculation. Uncoated wheat plants exhibited a strong
variation of yield between the two growing cycles (2.8 and 3.6 t ha-1 for 2011-12
and 2012-13, respectively) in comparison to coated seeds (3.7 and 3.9 t ha-1 for
2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively). The increase in grain yield and yield stability 
with coating seed treatment was associated with an increased level of macro and
micronutrient uptake, higher SPAD index and photochemical activity of PSII. The
application of coated seeds containing Glomus and Trichoderma can improve the
crop performance of wheat in a sustainable way