What are mycorrhizal fungi? What does it do?

We all desire optimum health and productivity for our plants. Regardless of whether you are a gardening enthusiast or not, you surely concur that fungi, pests, disease, and unfavorable weather have long served as threats to plant life. Conventional wisdom suggests that these factors induce disease and result in plant demise. Nonetheless, certain fungi like Mycorrhizal Fungi, actually provide benefits to plants.

So, what is Mycorrhizal Fungi? It’s a fungus that is naturally occurring but is also available on sale by Agri-tech companies. Unlike normal fungi, which act as predators on whichever substrate, Mycorrhizal fungi benefit plants. Thus, you can safely say that the relationship between fungi and plants is symbiotic.

The realization of the fungi’s magic has led many people to rethink and research these elements are differentiated between bad and good while taking the necessary actions.

You could also refer to it as intimate or mycorrhizal if you like. Therefore, this fungus selflessly benefits garden plants; it is safe to allow them to thrive in your garden.

germinated seeds with mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal Fungi Types

These fungi are in two types:

Endomycorrhizal fungi

This type is compatible with many plant species, such as garden plants, grasses, and landscaping vegetation. As the name suggests, the fungi mycorrhiza penetrate individual root cells beyond the cell membranes.

Hence, they cannot be seen on the root surfaces. Within the cells, metabolism occurs, and an outcome is several by-products, of which carbohydrates/sugars are the only important products for the fungi. Examples of endomycorrhizal fungi include orchids, ericoid, and arbuscular Mycorrhiza.

Ectomycorrhizal fungi

This type is compatible with the remaining small range of plant species, such as some selected tree species and shrubs. On the other hand, these fungi’s Mycorrhiza does not even reach the cell walls of individual cells. The fungi can easily be seen on the root surfaces. An example of such fungi is arbutin mycorrhizas.

infographic about fungi

What is Mycorrhizal Fungi’s general function?

The fungi start by invading your plants’ root system like normal fungi. Your plants become the host/substrate since the fungi thrive on them. The fungi form a special root mechanism called Mycorrhiza, hence Mycorrhizal fungi.

Using Mycorrhiza, your plants can absorb water and mineral salts through their roots more than they would before the invasion. In turn, the plants can make food in their leaves through photosynthesis, after which they can give back to the Mycorrhizal fungi in terms of carbohydrates/plant sugars.

Therefore, the relationship between plants and fungi is symbiotic or mycorrhizal.

What is Mycorrhizal Fungi additionally good for?

Increasing plant vigor with mycorrhizal fungi

Plants get to absorb water and mineral salts much more than before. Some valid research has shown that plants absorb these contents 200 times more with mycorrhizal fungi. As a result, plants absorb food more, getting healthier and more vibrant in their growth. Vigor is also in terms of how much production can occur quickly. Hence, productivity also increases.

Mycorrhizal Fungi Increase plant tolerance.

Mycorrhizal fungi are pretty much a cornerstone of garden plants’ survival. Situations that we as humans can hardly control, such as environmental extremities, are solved by mycorrhizal fungi. With well-developed, deep root systems and increased water and mineral salt absorption capacity, plants can withstand harshly dry conditions.

Additionally, Mycorrhizae release certain chemicals (allelochemicals) into plant systems. Such chemicals are like plant sera which boost plant immunity to infections.

Increasing productivity with mycorrhizal fungi

Plants can increase the rates of water and mineral salt absorption as well as that of making food. As a result, plant yields get bigger in size, quality and weight. They also look healthier. Since 70-80% of the plant mass is water, the group may get bigger, making the yields heavier and increasing productivity and revenue. With the increased soil quality, prolonged and high productivity is guaranteed.

inforgraphic on the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi

Save money with mycorrhizal fungi.

Since water and mineral absorption rates increase, the amount of resources such as money, energy, and time required for watering reduces significantly. Mycorrhizal fungi also act as a bio-fertilizer specifically because of the soil’s increased mineral salts and nutrients.

This way, it saves the costs of inputs such as fertilizer. The only fertilizer you might keep using is phosphatic fertilizer but only in moderate amounts. Excessive phosphates can reduce the coverage of mycorrhizal fungi on your plants’ roots. Fungi find too much phosphorous in the soil, inhibiting their growth and development.

Environmental friendliness

Since mycorrhizal fungi are now a bio-fertilizer, you won’t buy inorganic fertilizer, which contains harmful and toxic chemicals that kill essential micro-organisms in the soil, such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which is also very beneficial to your plants. Inorganic fertilizer also leaves toxic residue in the soil, making the soil contaminated over time and unsuitable for future farming.

Reducing soil salinity stress

Mycorrhizal fungi, such as Arbuscular fungi, regulate the excessive usage of fertilizers and pesticides that make the soil too saline for plant survival. Additionally, these fungi employ several mechanisms that make plants tolerant to salinity or reduce the adverse effects of salinity on plants. As a result, infections due to salinity become rarer.

Control soil erosion with mycorrhizal fungi

The hyphae of Mycorrhizae fungi improve soil structure by causing soil particles to bind together into stable soil, which increases its water infiltration and retention capacity. When plant parts such as leaves get healthier and bigger, the soil is shielded from hard-falling raindrops that cause splashes.

Additionally, an aspect of better plant health is more developed root systems. If an area has root systems that are well endowed horizontally and vertically, it means the surrounding soil is well-held, and no erosion should occur.

Mycorrhizae fungi play an essential role in the growth of a plant. The fungi are recommended for soil control to provide the plant roots with enough water and oxygen for maximum growth.

Usually, the Mycorrhizae fungi maintain a symbiotic relationship with the plants providing enough access to water and nutrients. The fungi grow naturally in all types of soils where plants grow; therefore, you don’t need to buy them from various retailers.

Usually, the strong symbiotic results from the process through which the Mycorrhizae fungi network with fine filamentous growth on the soil giving the plants enough access to nutrients, water, and air. Some companies will convince you to buy the Mycorrhizae fungi, and you may easily fall for the trap if you do not know about these fungi.

As mentioned earlier, Mycorrhizae fungi grow naturally. However, there are some special cases where you may require additional Mycorrhizae fungi. Only in such cases can you purchase the Mycorrhizae fungi.

Bare soil

In a place where the soil is bare and does not support other plants’ growth, the soil likely has few natural fungi. The Mycorrhizae fungi can only grow where the soil conditions can also support the growth of other plants.

Adding the Mycorrhizae fungi in the bare soil may thus be required to make the conditions favorable for the growth of both the plants and more of the Mycorrhizae fungi.

Sterile potting soil

Sometimes you may grow flowers or other plants in a container, but the soil becomes sterile to support the growth of the Mycorrhizae fungi. In such a case adding the fungi would be wise to provide the plant with more nutrients, water and enough oxygen for maximum growth.

If you are experiencing stunted growth with your plants, then the best solution to speed up the growth and maximize your productivity is to maximize the growth of the Mycorrhizae fungi in the soil. The fungi have provided the plants with various growth benefits, which is a good option to consider.

While the fungi may grow naturally on the soil, in some cases where the soil is bare, you may need to add more Mycorrhizae fungi to speed up the growth of the plants. The Mycorrhizae fungi are indeed very essential in the garden.

Since it is naturally available, you could use it to maximize the growth of your plants while maintaining a strong symbiotic relationship between the fungi and the plants.

two trees shaking hands with mycorrhizal fungi

Further Information

If you would like to learn more about how Mycorrhizal Fungi can help your plants in the garden, why not check out this article, where I take you through the whole process in detail? After which, you will understand the relationship between your plants and this fungus.

Conclusion

Now, you can shed away your fears and uncertainties. The question, What are mycorrhizal fungi?’ has been exhaustively answered, and nothing should stop you from applying mycorrhizal fungi in your garden for the best results.

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Remember, folks, you reap what you sow!

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