MBG Madagascar’s Chris Birkinshaw and Dinasoa Tahirinirainy describe exciting, preliminary results from a forest restoration experiment in highland Madagascar.
A small number of forest restoration projects in Madagascar routinely inoculate the tree seedlings in their nurseries with a homemade mycorrhizal inoculum. While the nurserymen are convinced that this technique promotes growth and survival of tree seedlings, there seems to be no published data objectively demonstrating these positive outcomes. In an effort to provide the evidence to justify investment in this technique, we designed a simple experiment that will compare the survival and growth under four treatments of young plants of six native trees planted in grassland adjacent to the Ankafobe Forest on the central Malagasy highlands.
Table – Four experimental treatments to test the effects of mulch and mycorrhizal inoculum on native tree seedling growth in highland Madagascar
|Mulched||Treatment 1||Treatment 2|
|Not mulched||Treatment 3||Treatment 4 (control)|
In our experiment, fifteen seedlings of each of six native tree species will be grown under each of the four treatments listed above. The mycorrhizal inoculum was made by filling a pit (150 cm long × 50 cm wide × 30 cm deep) lined with sacks with topsoil collected from around the roots of three native tree species, then growing maize and beans in this soil for three months before cutting these plants down and letting the substrate dry out for two weeks. The substrate remaining in the pit is the inoculum and was used by adding one tablespoon to each seedling container.
The tree seedlings that received mycorrhizal enrichment were inoculated in November 2017, and all of the seedlings were otherwise grown under the same conditions in the nursery until January 2018 when they were planted out into an experimental plot at Ankafobe. Half of the tree seedlings were surrounded by a thick layer of grass-based mulch (~30-cm deep). The comparison of seedling performance with and without the addition of mulch is interesting because of the possibility that mulch helps to maintain a relatively cool and moist environment in which the mycorrhizae can flourish.
Table – Mean difference in tree seedling height (cm) between seedlings inoculated versus not inoculated with homemade mycorrhizae, after two months in the nursery (N = 30 seedlings per species).
|Species||Inoculated seedling height||Non-inoculated seedling height||t||p1|
|Aphloia theiformis||29.5 ± 10.2||33.4 ± 6.5||-1.75||1.0000|
|Baronia tarantana||18.1 ± 6.1||11.4 ± 3.5||5.21||<0.0001|
|Brachylaena ramiflora||27.2 ± 6.0||31.8 ± 6.5||-2.87||1.0000|
|Craspidospermum verticillatum||43.0 ± 5.9||42.6 ± 3.7||0.37||1.0000|
|Macaranga alnifolia||34.8 ± 8.6||39.2 ± 5.2||-2.43||1.0000|
|Uapaca densifolia||23.0 ± 7.9||11.5 ± 2.6||7.58||<0.0001|
1 t and p values are from a one-tailed student’s t-test asking whether inoculated seedling height was greater than non-inoculated seedling height. P values are adjusted for multiple comparisons with Bonferroni correction.
Although we plan to measure seedling survival and growth 12 months from the time when they were planted (i.e., in January 2019), we were interested to see that for two of the species the height of inoculated seedlings was significantly greater than the height of non-inoculated seedlings after a mere two months in the nursery. On average, inoculated seedlings of Baronia tarantana are 1.6× taller than non-inoculated seedlings; while the seedlings of Uapaca densifolia are a full 2× taller. For the other species there was no significant difference between the height of the inoculated and non-inoculated plants.