The unique ecosystem of the Congolese rainforest has only scarcely been explored for its plant-fungal interactions. Here, we characterized the root fungal communities of field-grown maize and of Panicum from adjacent borders in the Congo Basin and assessed parameters that could shape them. The soil properties indicated that comparable poor soil conditions prevailed in fields and borders, illustrating the low input character of local subsistence farming. The rhizosphere fungal communities, dominated by ascomycetous members, were structured by plant species, slash-and-burn practices and soil P, pH and C/N ratio. Examining fungi with potential plant growth-promoting abilities, the glomeromycotan communities appeared to be affected by the same parameters, whereas the inconspicuous symbionts of the order Sebacinales seemed less susceptible to environmental and anthropogenic factors. Notwithstanding the low abundances at which they were detected, sebacinoids occurred in 87% of the field samples, implying that they represent a consistent taxon within indigenous fungal populations across smallholder farm sites. Pending further insight into their ecosystem functionality, these data suggest that Sebacinales are robust root inhabitants that might be relevant for on-farm inoculum development within sustainable soil fertility management in the Sub-Saharan region.
- fungal diversity
- plant growth-promoting tropical endophytes
- subsistence agriculture