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The Hidden World of Mycorrhizal Fungi

mycorrhizal-fungi-rootsIf you have ever enjoyed the shade of a tree or have admired a beauty of a flower or have eaten berries, you have benefited from the hidden world of mycorrhizal fungi. More than 95 percent of the world’s plants have some form of dependency on mycorrhizal fungi. This relationship occurred over 450 million years ago and will stay with us for many years to come.  When mycorrhizae fungi colonize the plant root system, they form a network that enhances the capabilities of plant to absorb more water and nutrients like phosphorus, copper and zinc. This enhances the growth and favours rapid development of roots and vegetative growth.

 

The term mycorrhiza refers to a group of fungi that form mutually benefiting relationship with many plants. These fungi either grow inside of a plant root or attach themselves with surface of the root. The fungi benefits from the food and nutrients of the plant and in turn spread their hyphae out in the surrounding soil to absorb water and nutrients and make them available to the plant. In this way they enhance the plant’s ability to take up the nutrient and the water. There is a mountain of research out there that shows that prevalence of mycorrhizae helps plants deal with drought and bio-balancing disease. No wonder why more than 95 percent of the plant kingdom has some sort of association or dependency on mycorrhizae. These benefits are not always immediately evident, especially in the case of short term crops unless they are planted where access to water or nutrient is restricted.

 

Some of the known benefits of mycorrhizae are:

  • 2X faster growth

Roots with mycorrhizae spread over the available space more quickly owing to its spectacular extension. Mycorrhizae can increase the root capacity of a plant by 700 times in a matter of few months.

  • Reduced water need by 30 percent

Since roots with mycorrhizae have more surface area to absorb water there is a reduced need of watering.

  • Increase in survival rate by 75 percent

Roots with mycorrhizae enjoy greater capacity to absorb nutrients from the soil. This results in healthier and more vigorous plant that are even more resistant to stress.

  • Improved soil structure

Mycorrhizae spread out their hyphae in all available space, inadvertently holding the soil particles together. Furthermore mycorrhizae improves soil structure allowing better water penetration by 25 percent and slowing down the erosion while stabilizing the soil.

  • Increased nutrient supply

Mycorrhizae increases plant’s nutrient supply by acquiring nutrient forms that otherwise will not be normally available to the plants.

  • Bio-Balancing nematodes and parasitic fungi

Root colonization by ECM and VAM fungi bio-balances plants from parasitic fungi and nematodes.

  • Regulates carbon storage in soil

Mycorrhizae fungi enhance carbon storage in soil by fiddling with the quality and quantity of soil’s organic matter.

 

Due to residential construction or intensive cropping practice like application of fertilizer with pesticide content has resulted in considerable reduction of mycorrhizae content and have become reduced significantly. Supplementing VAM is the best way to correct these areas with low mycorrhizae content as well as adding a good quality carbon source like compost.

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