Mycorrhizal Fungi: This Tiny Microbe Is the 800 lb. Gorilla
Pure mycorrhizal inoculum cultured by RTI. This test sample contains several thousand propagules per gram. Photo courtesy of Fernando Morell (Mycorrhizal Production, Research and Development Manager; Reforestation Technologies International)
Ahhh, the fungus among us….
Mycorrhizal spores and hyphae are typically microscopic and invisible by the naked eye, however, if unwound and stretched out, a single cubic centimeter of hyphae may exceed the length of a football field! It is through this elaborate network that mycorrhizal fungi are collectively able to tap into resources beyond a plant’s root system and transfer these products back to the roots.
Although these organisms are miniscule, the benefits imparted on their host plants are enormous. The presence of mycorrhizae may be credited for increased nutrient supply; drought tolerance; protection from pathogens; improved soil structure and carbon storage; stronger immune systems to fight off pests and diseases; increased uptake and retention of moisture and nutrients resulting in greater growth thus reducing and/or eliminating water and fertilizer requirements; increased elemental nutrient supply (particularly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), which give rise to primary metabolites (lipids, carbohydrates, amino acids), which give rise to secondary metabolites (vitamins, minerals, terpenes, etc.); increased temperature tolerance. That is quite an impressive list of accomplishments for such a tiny organism!