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A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding How Mycorrhizal Fungi Work for Your Garden and Plants Growth

Have you worked so hard on your garden but are seeing little or no profit? 

Research shows that about 400 mycoheterotrophic plant species, such as pteridophytes, angiosperms, and bryophytes depend on mycorrhizal fungi to provide them with carbon.

If you have ever carefully cultivated a garden, you know the frustration of getting unattractive/stunted flowers, low yield, and a stunted root system.

Gardening can heal individuals, ecosystems, and the planet, but only if it is done right. Therefore, every cannabis grower wants a fast-growing cannabis garden that yields good profits.

But how can you have a successful cannabis garden without making the most of mycorrhizal fungi?

Mycorrhizae are fungi that share a symbiotic relationship with plants. The result of this relationship is improved growth and survival, the bio-balance of pathogens, and increased rooting due to a more efficient soil structure.

This article is for gardeners, horticulturists, commercial growers, and hobbyists who want to understand how mycorrhizal fungi works, and how they can apply this knowledge and our products to get better results.

Here are a few things we will cover briefly:

  • Understanding what mycorrhizal fungi are
  • Types of mycorrhizal fungi
  • How mycorrhizal fungi work - The process
  • How do mycorrhizal fungi benefit plants?
  • How do plants benefit mycorrhizal fungi?

Without wasting a second, let’s dive in!

Understanding What Mycorrhizal Fungi Are

Fungi are typically multicellular eukaryotic organisms that depend on other organisms for food but play an important role in nutrient cycling in an ecosystem. They form an important part of the soil food web.

5-The-soil-food-web

They can reproduce sexually and asexually, and they have symbiotic, parasitic, and mutualistic associations with plants. Although fungi can be divided into five types, Glomeromycetes form mycorrhizae with plants. Glomeromycetes account for about half the fungi found in soil. 

Mycorrhiza is defined as a mutually beneficial relationship between the root of a plant and a fungus colonizing it. Literally, it means fungus roots. Mycorrhizal fungi can be found inside and outside plant roots. 

The relationship between the fungi and the plant roots is symbiotic. The plant provides a home and food for the fungi in its roots.In return, the fungi provide water and nutrients to the plant for proper growth. 

To achieve this, the fungi uses the sugar obtained from the plant, dissolving minerals in the soil to provide the plant with nutrients. 

The presence of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil is critical to the porosity and structure of the soil.

To improve soil structure, mycorrhizae do the following:

  1. They use their fungal filaments to hold the soil together.
  2. The fungi excrete a sticky substance called glomalin to help bind the soil together.

When these two actions are in place, there will be a noticeable increase in soil porosity, water movements, erosion resistance, and aeration.

The relationship between the fungi and plants is not always mutually beneficial. There are times when the relationship is parasitic. The fungi benefit from the plant, causing harm to the plant, while at other times, the plant is the one feeding off the fungi.

There are times where plants don't have any association with mycorrhizal fungi. When plants are in an environment with abundant water and nutrients in the soil, they do not require the assistance of mycorrhizal fungi because they do not grow in that type of environment.

Furthermore, mycorrhizal plant species sometimes interact with non-mycorrhizal plant species.

5-Interactions-between-mycorrhizal-and-non-mycorrhizal-plant-species

Types of Mycorrhizal Fungi

There are two predominant types of mycorrhizae (ectomycorrhizae and endomycorrhizae), classified according to the colonization location of the fungi on the plants.

5-Types-of-mycorrhizal-fungi

  1. Ectomycorrhizae:   
This refers to a mutual symbiotic relationship between a fungal mycobiont and the roots of woody plants like pine, fir, birch, spruce, willow, oak, and beech. This mycobiont is mostly from the phylum Basidiomycota
In other words, ectomycorrhiza is a type of mycorrhiza where fungi live only on the outside of the root.

 

 

About 5-10% of terrestrial plants have fungi living on their exteriors.

  1. Endomycorrhizae:
An endomycorrhizal fungus is a type of mycorrhizae that differs from ectomycorrhizae in structure. Unlike ectomycorrhizae, which form a system of hyphae that grow around the cells of the root, the hyphae of the endomycorrhiza do not only grow inside the root of the plant, but also penetrate the root cell walls, becoming enclosed in the cell membrane. 
This is the reason for the more invasive symbiotic relationship between the fungi and the plant. The penetrating hyphae create a greater contact surface area between the hyphae of the fungi and the plant. This heightened contact facilitates a greater transfer of nutrients between the two. 
Endomycorrhizal fungi can be found in over 80% of extant plants, including crops and greenhouse plants. As said before, endomycorrhizal relationships are characterized by penetration of the cortical cells by the fungi, resulting in the formation of arbuscular and vesicles. 
 

How Mycorrhizal Fungi Work - The Process

Are you a farmer? Have you ever had to work in a garden even once or grown a single plant for whatever reason? 

If your answer is yes, then you know it is not an easy task. 

The process of preparing land for cultivation is not for lazy people.

After preparing the land and planting, you will need to ensure that the weeds don't disturb plant growth.

Providing water is another essential task after completion of the rainy season.

Overall, you must ensure that the plants have access to sunlight to produce nutrients.

Adhering to these steps will reward you with an abundance of healthy, delicious, fresh vegetables or beautiful flowers. 

Just like plants are found in gardens aboveground, fungi are found in gardens of their own, entirely underground. 

The steps we take to grow our plants are the same as those utilized by mycorrhizal fungi, with one slight difference.  We take care of plants from the top, they do the same from below.

The Process

Mycorrhizal fungi start by taking over the root of a plant, providing it with optimal soil nutrients. This mycorrhizal root system increases the absorptivity of the plant by expanding the root area by between 10 to 1000 times. This significantly improves the ability of the plants to maximize the soil resources.

With mycorrhizal fungi, plants can absorb all of the main micronutrients and macronutrients necessary for plant growth via the root transport system. 

Also, mycorrhizal fungi help to capture some nutrients which the plant alone would have not been able to access. It does this by releasing powerful chemicals into the soil that break down to capture nutrients, such as phosphorus, iron, and other stubborn soil nutrients.

Without this extraction process, it will be extremely difficult for plants to yield well. This is why a huge amount of money is spent on applying fertilizer to restore soil nutrition in areas without mycorrhizal fungi.

Mycorrhizal fungi form an important association with plants and soil, helping to extract and protect the nutrients. When the system is non-mycorrhizal, even if fertilizers are applied, much of it is lost. 

    5-Mycorrhizal-associations-between-plant-fungus-and-soil

    How Do Mycorrhizal Fungi Benefit Plants?

    A recent University study with pine trees, the pines were inoculated with the common disease organism, Fusarium.

    Over 90% of the pine trees died, but those inoculated with the mycorrhizal fungus, Rhizopogon, survived. It was concluded that the survival rates for Rhizopogon-treated pines exceeded 95%.

    Just like we invest a lot to help plants grow, mycorrhizal fungi are also involved with a wide variety of activities that benefit plant establishment and growth. The fungal filaments are responsible for transportation, nutrient and water uptake, and storage. 

    Mycorrhizal fungi help to fight diseases and pathogens on plants.

    Mycorrhizal roots have a mantle that acts as a physical barrier against the attack of root diseases. Also, mycorrhizal fungi attack and defend against pathogens or disease organisms that try to gain entry through the root. 

    They do this by excreting special antibiotics, immobilizing and killing pathogenic organisms. This is how some mycorrhizal fungi protect pine trees from Phytophthora, Fusarium, and Rhizoctonia diseases. 

    As we till the ground before planting, so do Mycorrhizal fungi improving the soil structure. Mycorrhizal fungi achieve this through their filaments, which produce humic compounds and organic glues known as extracellular polysaccharides. This glue, like conventional glue, binds soils into aggregates and improves soil porosity. 

    A good farmer understands that soil porosity and soil structure can positively influence the growth of plants by promoting aeration, water movement into the soil, root growth, and distribution.

    In sandy or compacted soils, the ability of mycorrhizal fungi to promote the soil structure may be more important than finding nutrients.

    How Do Plants Benefit Mycorrhizal Fungi?

    A lot has been said about the importance of mycorrhizal fungi to plants but since this association is mutual, plants play important roles in the survival of the fungi.

    Are plants also good gardeners?

    Well, it appears that they are.

    Just like we apply fertilizer to our gardens for plant growth, they, in turn, feed their mycorrhizae. Plants send the excess sugar produced in their leaves during photosynthesis to their roots.

    From here, the mycorrhizae absorb it to sustain themselves. As we know, the sun cannot penetrate the soil. So, there is very little or no sunlight underground, and even if there were, the mycorrhizae wouldn’t be able to harvest it like plants because they lack the chlorophyll needed for photosynthesis. Therefore, the excess sugar from the plants keeps the mycorrhizae alive.

    When plants are provided with enough water and sunlight, they can produce nutrients through photosynthesis, consisting of glucose and sucrose, some of which are directly accessible by the mycorrhizal fungi.

    Fungi are also provided with photosynthetically fixed carbon from the host, which functions as a trigger for nitrogen uptake and transport by the fungi. All of this is necessary for fungal growth and reproduction.

    The lack of mycorrhizal fungi on the root systems of plants is the leading cause of poor plant performance and growth in a variety of gardens, parks, forests, and farmlands.

    Just as a lot of research has gone into technology, it is equally important to understand soil organisms like mycorrhizal fungi. 

    Here’s the Last Piece of the Puzzle!

    As we have seen, mycorrhizal fungi are essential soil organisms, playing a critical role in nutrient cycling, mediating plant stress when disturbed by animals and humans, and protecting against disease pathogens. 

    They also form cornerstones in the ability of plants to survive the shock after transplant. Since plants have formed symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, their survival and fitness depends upon the healthy functioning of these fungi and vice versa.

    Just as plants invest tremendous capital in the form of energy to fuel underground soil organisms, so also we must look below the surface to understand and utilize these beneficial fungi. This is essential for food sustainability and a green earth. 

    Plant Revolution Inc. has all you need to see positive results from using our premium mycorrhizal fungi products. Our reputation, carefully built since 1999, is rock solid and our results continue to amaze customers every day. Contact us now.