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Agronomy 2019, 9(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9010012

Saffron Cultivation in Marginal Alpine Environments: How AMF Inoculation Modulates Yield and Bioactive Compounds

1
Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Torino, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy
2
Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, National Research Council (CNR), Viale Mattioli 25, 10125 Torino, Italy
3
Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Turin, Viale Mattioli 25, 10125 Torino, Italy
4
Biological Science Department, Science Faculty, Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), Av. Julius Nyerere-Campus Universitário, Maputo 3453, Mozambique
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 December 2018 / Revised: 28 December 2018 / Accepted: 30 December 2018 / Published: 31 December 2018
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Abstract

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) establish mutualistic symbiotic associations with plant roots and act as biofertilizers by enhancing plant nutrient and water uptake. Moreover, AMF colonization may influence the biosynthesis of plant bioactive compounds in medicinal and aromatic plants. There is limited information on AMF associations with Crocus sativus L. (saffron) roots and their effect on crop performances and spice quality. In the present work we verified the efficiency of root mycorrhization in potted conditions, and then we evaluated the yield and quality of the saffron produced in two Alpine sites during two cultivation cycles with the application of AMF. Two inocula were applied, either a single-species (Rhizophagus intraradices) or a multispecies mixture (R. intraradices and Funneliformis mosseae). The trial conducted in potted conditions confirmed that both AMF commercial inocula established symbiotic relationships with saffron roots. The multispecies inoculation yielded the highest content of arbuscules in colonized portions of the root (100%), while the single-species was slightly less (82.9%) and no AMF were recorded in untreated control corms. In open-field conditions, AMF colonization of the root systems, flower production, and saffron yields were monitored, and bioactive compounds contents and antioxidant activity in the dried spice were analyzed using spectrophotometry and high performance liquid chromatography. Overall, the saffron produced was high quality (ISO category) and had high contents of bioactive compounds, with very high total polyphenol content and elevated antioxidant activity. The use of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbionts as biostimulants positively affected saffron cultivation, improving the crop performances and the content of important nutraceutical compounds. In particular, the inoculum composed by R. intraradices and F. mosseae increased flower production and the saffron yield. R. intraradices alone enhanced the spice antioxidant activity and the content of bioactive compounds such as picrocrocin, crocin II, and quercitrin. Since saffron is the world’s highest priced spice, the increases in yield and quality obtained using AMF suggests that farms in marginal areas such as alpine sites can increase profitability by inoculating saffron fields with arbuscular mycorrhiza. View Full-Text
Keywords: Crocus sativus L.; biofertilization; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; antioxidant activity; crocin; picrocrocin; polyphenols; safranal Crocus sativus L.; biofertilization; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; antioxidant activity; crocin; picrocrocin; polyphenols; safranal
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Caser, M.; Victorino, Í.M.M.; Demasi, S.; Berruti, A.; Donno, D.; Lumini, E.; Bianciotto, V.; Scariot, V. Saffron Cultivation in Marginal Alpine Environments: How AMF Inoculation Modulates Yield and Bioactive Compounds. Agronomy 2019, 9, 12.

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