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What Does Mycorrhizae Do For Plants?

Posted May 12, 2017

Mycorrhizal fungi increases the surface absorbing area of roots 10 to 1,000 time more, thereby greatly improving the ability of the plants to use the soils resource.  Estimates of amounts of mycorrhizal filaments present in soil associated with plants are astonishing.  Several miles of fungal filament can be present in less than a thimbleful of soil.  But mycorrhizal fungi increase nutrient uptake not only by increasing the surface absorbing area of roots.  Mycorrhizal fungi release powerful enzymes into the soil that dissolve hard to capture nutrients, such as phosphorus, iron and other bound soil nutrients.  This extraction process is particulary important in plant nutrition and explains why non-mycorrhizal plants require high levels of fertility to maintain their health, such as soil that have been over-fertilized with synthetics.  Mycorrhizal fungi form an intricate web that captures and assimilates nutrients, conserving the nutrient capital in soils. 

Mycorrhizal fungi are involved with a wide variety of activities that benefit plant establishment and growth.  The same extensive network of fungal filaments important to nutrient uptake is also important in water uptake and storage.  In non-irrigated conditions, mycorrhizal plants are under far less drought stress compared to non-mycorrhizal plants.  Suppresion of diseases and pathogens are additional benefits for mycorrhizal plants.  Mycorrhizae fungi attack pathogen or disease organisms entering the root zone. 

Mycorrhizal fungi also improve soil structure.  Mycorrhizal filaments also produce humid compounds that bind soils into aggregates and improve soil porosity.  Soil porosity and soil structure positively influence the growth of plants by promoting aeration, water moment into the soil and root growth.

Multitudes of Benefits can be expected from using Mycorrhizal fungi in common practices.  These include improved plant survival, growth, more healthy rooting, flowering and fruiting, protection against disease, improved soil structure and resistance to invasion by non-mycorrhizal or exotic plant species. 

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