Sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) is an important vegetable containing bioactive metabolites with potential health-promoting properties having antioxidant activity (Marín et al., 2004), carotenoids, capsaicinoids, capsinoids, flavonoid glycosides, tocopherols, and ascorbic acid (Khoo et al., 2011; Márkus et al., 1999). In addition, they contain serotonin derivatives (Kang et al., 2009). Until the introduction of the first sweet pepper in the 1920s, Hungary was best known for hot paprika–spice pepper (Capsicum annuum L. var. longum), which is protected by the European Union as a national cultivar. It is traditionally cultivated in the Szeged and Kalocsa regions of Hungary (Somogyi et al., 2000) and ≈28.6 t is annually produced from 1500 ha (average 2000–2009). A growing awareness of sustainable agriculture, high-quality food, and more information on how food is produced has caused a demand for reduced chemical inputs in pepper cultivation.
Mycorrhiza can function in horticulture as a sustainable, biocontrol agent against pathogens, a bioprotectant against toxic stresses, and as a soil-improving antierosion agent (Vosátka and Albrechtová, 2008). The interest in use of mycorrhiza in horticulture is mostly the result of the ability of AM fungi to enhance uptake of phosphorus (P) and water, decrease agrochemical inputs during production, and increase resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses (Wu and Zou, 2010; Wu et al., 2011). There are other important aspects from use of mycorrhiza including improved seedling survival, increased growth and yield, uniformity of horticultural crops, and earlier and increased flowering (Azcon-Aguilar and Barea, 1997; Vosátka and Albrechtová, 2008). The improvement of vegetable nutritional quality can be the result of existence of mycorrhizal symbiosis through activation of antioxidant, phenylpropanoid, or carotenoid pathways (Baslam et al., 2011).
Generally, pepper belongs to mycorrhiza-dependent vegetables and mycorrhiza have been shown to significantly improve pepper fruit yield (Douds and Reider, 2003; Gaur et al., 1998; Kaya et al., 2009; Russo and Perkins-Veazie, 2010), to enhance seedling quality and to compensate for P and zinc (Zn) deficiency in P- and Zn-deficient soils (Ortas et al., 2011). Contents of bioactive compounds in spice red pepper can be changed depending on weather conditions during vegetative growth (Márkus et al., 1999) and post-harvest storage or after-ripening (Somogyi et al., 2000). The AMF was found to be active as a protective agent against Phytophthora capsici (Zheng et al., 2005) or Verticillium spp. (Goicoechea et al., 2010), pathogens infecting pepper.
There are only a few studies on effects of commercial mycorrhizal inoculants on growth and development of horticultural plants (Cwala et al., 2010; Gaur et al., 1998) and to study their influence on indigenous mycorrhiza population (Antunes et al., 2009; Mummey et al., 2009).
The aim of the present work was to determine effects of the commercially available AM inoculant Symbivit, a mixture of six species of Glomus spp., on growth and yield of field-grown spice pepper and to determine if any change in the soil community of root-colonizing AM fungi occurs as a consequence of artificial inoculation.
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