Herbicides are commonly used on private timberlands in the western United States for site preparation and control of competing vegetation. How non-target soil biota respond to herbicide applications, however, is not thoroughly understood. We tested the effects of triclorpyr, imazapyr, and sulfometuron methyl on ectomycorrhizal formation in a greenhouse study. Ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and white fir seedlings were grown in four forest soils ranging in clay content from 9 to 33% and organic matter content from 3 to 17%, and treated with commercial formulations of each herbicide at 0, 1.0, and 2.0 times the recommended field rate. Many of the possible herbicidesoil combinations resulted in reduced seedling growth. Root development was particularly sensitive to the three herbicides, with an average of 51% fewer root tips compared to the control treatment. The ability of mycorrhizal fungi to infect the remaining root tips, however, was uninhibited. Mycorrhizal formation was high, averaging 91% of all root tips, regardless of herbicide, application rate, soil type, or conifer species. In agreement, soil microbial biomass and respiratory activity were unaffected by the herbicide treatments. The results show that these herbicides do not alter the capability of mycorrhizal fungi to infect roots, even at concentrations detrimental to seedling growth.
Busse, Matt D.;p Fiddler, Gary O.; Ratcliff, Alice W. 2004. Ectomycorrhizal formation in herbicide-treated soils of differing clay and organic matter content. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, Vol. 152: 23-34