What are mycorrhizal fungi? What does it do?


We all want the best for our plants in terms of health and productivity. Whether you are a gardener or not, you most certainly agree that for decades that fungi, pests, diseases, and adverse weather conditions have been enemies to plants. General knowledge has it that these bring forth illnesses, and thereafter, death to your plants. However, there are fungi’s that are beneficial such as Mycorrhizal Fungi

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 a predator on whichever substrate, Mycorrhizal fungi are actually very beneficial to plants. Thus, you can safely say that the relationship between the fungi and plants is symbiotic.

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

You could also refer to it as intimate or mycorrhizal if you like. This fungus, therefore, is very beneficial to garden plants in a selfless kind of way, it is absolutely safe to allow them to thrive in your garden.

Mycorrhizal Fungi Types

These fungi are in two types:

Endomycorrhizal fungi

This type is compatible with a very wide range of plant species such as garden plants, grasses, and landscaping vegetation. As the name suggests, the fungi mycorrhiza do penetrate individual root cells beyond even the cell membranes.

Hence, they cannot be seen on the root surfaces. Within the cells, metabolism takes place and an outcome is a number of by-products, of which carbohydrates/sugars are the only important products for the fungi. Examples of endomycorrhizal fungi include orchid, 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.

What is Mycorrhizal Fungi’s general function?

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

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

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

What is Mycorrhizal Fungi’s additionally good for?

Increasing plant vigor with mycorrhizal fungi

Plants get to absorb water and mineral salts much more than before. In fact, 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 within a short time. Hence, productivity also increases.

Mycorrhizal Fungi Increases plant tolerance

Mycorrhizal fungi is 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 capacity of water and mineral salts absorption, 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 are able to increase the rates of water and mineral salts 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 mass may get bigger making the yields get heavier leading to more productivity and revenue. With the increased soil quality, prolonged and high productivity is guaranteed.

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 acts as a bio-fertilizer specifically because of the increase in mineral salts and nutrients from the soil.

This way, it saves the costs of inputs such as fertilizer. The only fertilizer you might keep using is the 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 an inhibition to their growth and development.

Environmental friendliness

The fungi is also friendky to the environment. Since mycorrhizal fungi is now a bio-fertilizer, you won’t go buying 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 behind toxic residue in the soil making the soil contaminated over time and also unsuitable for future farming.

Reducing soil salinity stress

Mycorrhizal fungi such as Arbuscular fungi regulates the excessive usage of fertilizers and pesticides that make the soil too saline for plant survival. Additionally, these fungi employ a number of mechanisms that make plants tolerant to salinity or reduce the adverse effects of the salinity to 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 that increases its water infiltration and retention capacity. When plants 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 both horizontally and vertically, it means the surrounding soil is well held and no erosion should take place.

Mycorrhizae fungi plays a very essential role in the growth of a plant. The fungi is majorly recommended for soil control purposes meant 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 type of soils where plants grow and therefore you don’t need to buy it from the various retailers.

Usually the strong symbiotic results from the process through which the Mycorrhizae fungi networks 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 have no knowledge about this fungi.

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

Bare soil

In a place where the soil is bare and does not support other plants growth, then it is likely that the soil 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 favourable for the growth of both the plants and more of the Mycorrhizae fungi as well.

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 some 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 on the soil. The fungi has proved to avail a range of growth benefits to the plants and it is indeed 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.

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 how the whole process works in detail. After which you will understand the relationship between your plants and this fungus.

Conclusion

Now, you can shed away or 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!

Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter and long term gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 45. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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