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Over the past several years, the science of gardening has identified the remarkable benefits of introducing soil organisms like mycorrhizal fungi to increase nutrient levels, to combat disease, and even to add a source of moisture when needed. This makes it possible for nearly anyone to achieve a plentiful harvest.
Mycorrhiza is the singular term used to describe the symbiotic relationship between plant roots and fungi. This relationship begins when threadlike structures known as hyphae penetrate the epidermis of a plant’s roots.
The fungi then colonise the roots, dispersing a network of hyphae throughout the entire soil, thereby increasing the absorptive surface area for the plant's intake of nutrients.
Although the two best-known classes of mycorrhizal fungus are ectomycorrhizal and mycorrhizal fungi, there are actually several different classes used to identify them. Additionally, there are more than 150 known species found in different types of climates and soils around the world.
A mycorrhizal fungus is a member of a family of complex organisms that are now known to be highly beneficial for plant growth and quality.
Typically, most mineral-rich soils will already contain mycorrhizal fungi, however, due to modern issues like overworked soil, tilled fields, and new construction development, most of these soils will often have natural mycorrhizal fungi levels that are far too low to promote proper cultivation.
Because mycorrhizal fungi are host-specific, they will only colonise specific plants—meaning that in some soils, the native fungi may not be able to add any benefit to the new crop you have decided to plant. As a rule, it is best to add new mycorrhizal fungi to the soil when planting fresh crops.
In the case of soilless cultivation methods, it becomes vitally important to add mycorrhizal fungi manually since these systems are generally devoid of much-needed beneficial organisms.
When done correctly, the result is improved nutrient saturation and uptake by plant roots. Mycorrhizae are especially helpful in introducing essential elements like phosphorus, zinc, manganese, copper, and other vital nutrients. In exchange, the plant provides exudates (carbohydrates) to the fungi.
Mycorrhizal fungi are like little miners in the soil that find and deliver nutrients back to the plants, promoting healthier growth. This also reduces the necessity for synthetic fertiliser applications to support robust development.
Mycorrhizal fungi can draw moisture from the medium and relocate it to the root zone if necessary. This in turn reduces or slows down the potential risk of wilting due to water stress.
Mycorrhizal fungi have been proven to protect plants from high-salt and micronutrient toxicities.
Mycorrhizal fungi protect plants from the threat of root rot by eating root exudates like carbohydrates, as well as by promoting thicker cell walls at the core, making penetration by unwanted pathogens more difficult.
Plants provided with mycorrhizal fungi tend to produce larger yields naturally. However, this is especially true in the case of plants that have been placed in low-quality, under-fertilised soil.
In a nutshell, there are numerous good reasons why these tiny fungi should be added to your grower’s toolbox. In the end, the use of mycorrhizal fungi boils down to a great harvest and healthier plants.