Nutrient and water use efficiency in aerobic rice production: is there a role for beneficial soil fungi?

The University of Adelaide

  • Project code: PRO-017380

  • Project stage: Current

  • Project start date: Wednesday, December 6, 2023

  • Project completion date: Sunday, August 31, 2025

  • National Priority: RIC-Agronomy and farming systems


The future of aerobic rice production in Australia is highly reliant on optimising agronomic management of soil water, nutrients (nitrogen [N] and phosphorus [P]), and microbiome (fungi and bacteria). These three factors are likely to interact to affect aerobic rice growth, but little is known about their individual or synergistic impact.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are ubiquitous in Australian agricultural soils, but their effect on crop growth is often underestimated and underexplored. These fungi colonise crop roots and extend fine hyphae into the soil beyond the reach of plant root systems. Water and nutrients they collect can be transferred to the plant, thereby greatly expanding the soil volume from which plants can source water and nutrients. Mycorrhizal fungi can improve crop P and N use efficiencies (PUE, NUE), improve water use efficiency (WUE) and drought tolerance, and generally boost the yield and nutrition of colonised plants. Aerobic production enables rice farming to, for the first time, leverage the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi colonisation, which cannot occur in flooded soils. 

This project will exploit a high-precision, automated watering technology platform at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) to capture data on rice plant transpiration and WUE to provide detailed, precise water management for aerobic growth. Research outcomes will reveal how Australian commercial rice varieties perform under different water and nutrient availability conditions (optimal vs suboptimal), and whether mycorrhizal fungi can promote water and nutrient uptake from the soil to improve plant health and yield.



Research Organisation

The University of Adelaide