We evaluated the effects of cattle manure and inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in maize plants growing in a semiarid area of Brazilian north-east in 2012 and 2013. Three isolates of AMF (Acaulospora longula URM-FMA 07 and URM-FMA 03, Claroideoglomus etunicatum UNIVASF 06A) were used, with or without the application of cattle manure, during two growing cycles. In the first year, significant effects of inoculation were detected for straw yield only when the manure was applied. In the second year, there was an interaction between fertilisation and inoculation for plant height and grain yield, with the highest values in the fertilised treatments. Inoculation with A. longula demonstrated that mycorrhizal inoculation in field-grown plants could be an alternative management for improving plant growth and grain yield, reducing the use of cattle manure. The AMF sporulation and mycorrhizal colonisation were improved after inoculation, and A. longula URM-FMA 07 increased sporulation by more than 15 times while inoculation with C. etunicatum increased sporulation by more than 3 times. The mycorrhizal inoculation is a management practice that can be useful for recovering or maintaining AMF infective propagules in soil, showing potential to be used in large-scale field conditions in Brazilian semiarid. Although mycorrhisation presents high agricultural relevance due to benefits promoted to the soil and plants, the knowledge about the factors influencing the interactions among microorganisms, soil and plants need to be broadened aiming to achieve successful crop management in semiarid regions.