Ask a PhD: Fungi

Check out co-founder Colin Bell in a new Garden Culture Magazine series called “Ask a PhD”. The first topic is about Fungi, read the article below:

How many types of mycorrhizal fungi exist? Are they all beneficial to plants? Can fungi grow into plants through their root systems?

Answer from Dr. Colin Bell, Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Mammoth Microbes:

Soil fungi are filamentous, microscopic, hair-like organisms that grow through the soil decomposing organic matter and supporting plant growth in both natural and agricultural ecosystems.

Arguably, one of the most important fungal groups to support plant growth in agriculture systems is arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. These symbiotic fungi function by infecting the outer layer of the root, penetrating the root cortical layers, and developing arbuscules (i.e exchange) sites within the host plant root cells. At these arbuscule exchange sites, fungi consume the labile carbon exudates that the plants produce, to support fungal growth, while the fungi provide excess phosphorous to the plant that they have scavenged from the surrounding environment. It is believed that under optimal growing conditions, it takes a minimum of 15 days for colonization to occur. This symbiotic relationship is an exchange of nutrients; carbon from the plant to the fungi, and phosphorous from the surrounding soil environment through the fungi to the plant. Glomus is the largest genus of AM fungi, with over 200 known species. Approximately 80% of plant species on earth have AM fungal associations.

Scientists believe that these symbiotic interactions originated over 400 million years ago as these ancient free living fungi evolved symbiotic relationships with plants to support both plant and fungal success. It is unclear whether these fungi have plant species-specific relationships. However, it is commonly known that only one AM fungal species has been shown to infect cannabis sativa, called glomus intradecies. AM fungal growth is sensitive to environmental shifts in temperature, pH, and ion (i.e fertilizer) concentrations. For example, AM fungal infection rates have been shown to significantly decline with increased phosphorous availability within the rhizosphere. This suggests a strong feedback loop corresponding to environmental conditions, which is deterministic of the success of the symbiotic relationship with plants when AM fungi are used in agriculture management practices.

All biology is regulated by the environment. When using biological solutions in agriculture, it is important to understand the function of the biology and the environmental limitations in order to maximize success.

Read the original article here: https://gardenculturemagazine.com/magazine/usa-canada-issue-27/

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