Benefits of Adding Mycorrhizal to Soil and Soil-less Media (like Hydroponics)
Mycorrhizal fungi play a beneficial role in plants, soil (through the process of soil aggregation and encouragement of microbial activities) and the environment. The benefits of mycorrhizae can greatly benefit many species of plants, farming systems employed and environmental conditions. There has been much speculation on whether mycorrhizae can be effectively utilized outside of soil. With this article we will address that idea and hope it will broaden your knowledge of the media acceptable and the various benefits it provides to plants.
In order to correct the present misconception on the usage of mycorrhizae in the cannabis world, everyone should be aware that mycorrhizae can be effectively used in both soil, soil-less media (hydroponics) and even in fresh cuttings. Note* Different hydroponic growing systems can produce different results, when referring to hydroponics, we are specifically referencing drain to waste growing styles which is today's most popular growing style especially in cannabis.
There are several ways of adding mycorrhizal fungi into hydroponics. These methods include
- Easily introducing straight into the nutrient solution like powder
- It can also be applied as a root-dip-solution
- By incorporating it into the manufactured soil-less growth media
Mycorrhizae introduced into the growing media grows and reproduce so far as they are in contact with the host (plant roots). Applications on periodic basis are encouraged since those not attached to plants roots die, which means excess of mycorrhizae has no negative effect on the plant.
Improves plants root system
Healthy root system is inevitable in the survival of any plant. Hence, without a well-developed root system, cannabis plants face several risks which include poor anchorage to the soil, a low absorption rate of water and nutrient elements, decreased pest resistance, and many other negative effects. Mycorrhizal fungi association can address some of these problems. In hydroponics, cannabis yields are increased by extending root systems using mycorrhizal fungi. The fungal hyphae move among the root surfaces, as well as exploring areas not accessed by the root hairs. They explore the available nutrient resources in the rhizosphere, encourage branching of roots and producing feeder roots that search for more mineral elements.
Helps in absorption of nutrients and water
Nutrients and water are taken up by plants through their root hairs in all planting media. In hydroponics, mycorrhizal fungi can be directly mixed with a mineral-based solution. It can be added to the nutrient solution like any other supplement to achieve the same result as what we have in soil media. This enhances the volume of water and nutrient that can be taken up by the fungal hyphae. These hyphae are tinier than plant root hairs, thus, goes to places in the soil that are not accessible by plant roots. Also, they are attracted to nutrients far more than the root hairs.
Increases resistance to pests and diseases in the root zone
Resistance to diseases is generally improved by maintaining a healthy rhizosphere condition. Healthy plants, therefore, withstand and tolerate disease carriers like Rhizoctonia, Phythium, all forms of root rot (especially Phytophthora), stem disorder (Verticillum), and Fusarium. Mycorrhizae chemically and physically defend plants from diseases. They produce antibiotics which boost plants’ immune system and vigor, prevent disease organisms and assist in host nutrition improvement. Through their underground networks, they are able to send and receive warning signals (Zdenka et al., 2013; Johnson, D. and Gilbert, L. 2015). A sheathing mantle formed as a result of mycorrhizal association physically defends the root against invasive pathogens. Studies have shown that mycorrhizae excrete enzymes poisonous to bad soil-borne microorganisms mostly nematodes (Azcón-Aguilar, C. and Barea, 1996).
Mycorrhizae affects in high salinity
Mycorrhizal fungi lessen the harmful affects of high salinity. Though salinity in most cases affects arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi negatively, researches also indicates enriched growth and performance in salt stressed environments when mycorrhizae is present (Porcel et al., 2012). As part of their protective functions, they also protect plants from pH changes, pests, and drought. Hence, they ward off all environmental stressors.
Optimize phosphorus uptake and usage
Fungal hyphae support bacterial growth which effectively extracts phosphorus from organic materials. It follows a cycle whereby, the phosphorous loosened by the bacteria is captured by fungal hyphae and made available to the root of the plant. This cycle offers a significant nutrient benefit to the plant as the hyphae boost the absorption of not only phosphorus, but potassium, iron, copper, sulfur, zinc, and nickel. Phosphorous is also the primary nutrient needed for bud and flower formation, which is heavily demanded by cannabis plants in the bloom stage.
Enhances the establishment and capacity of nitrogen-fixing nodules in legumes
Mycorrhizal fungi encourage adequate availability and uptake of phosphorous, this association greatly assists fixation of nitrogen mostly by leguminous crops. In the root areas of plants, phosphorous helps to colonize the Rhizobium bacteria which is responsible for fixing nitrogen. Rhizobium bacteria traps gaseous nitrogen from the atmosphere and turn it into forms easily accessible and useful to the plants. It is a continuous cycle which leads to continuous nitrogen production.
Improves plant growth hormones production and seed germination
Mycorrhizal fungi increase the rate of seed germination and raise the levels of plants hormones (gibberellins and cytokinins). These hormones are responsible for cell division, seed germination, stem elongation, and other plant growth and developmental roles.
Maintains good soil physical property and characteristics
Soil aggregates are resilient to breakdown by water. This therefore, improves the physical properties of the soil through the movement of water and air in and out of the soil. The hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi bind non-aggregated particles of soil physically together, hence, giving room for different compounds of bacteria and fungi to form them into aggregates which assists in the soil food web. Fungal hyphae excrete chemical compounds such as glomalin which have binding abilities and make soil particles to aggregate.
It is easy to recognize the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi, which are too numerous both in the soil and soil-less media. They generally improve nutrient absorption, generate more nutrients, increase yields and crop quality and help in stress protection. In soil media, it raises the stability of the soil. It creates a defensive layer against drought, diseases and pests, high salinity and fixes nitrogen into the soil. The addition of mycorrhizal fungi provides a huge support for most gardening techniques and growth media. Thus, it needs to be incorporated in all forms of farming for maximum yield and quality produce.
Optimize Plant Growth with MycoRhize
It is clear to cannabis growers throughout the world that mycorrhizae are as important to a plant as microbes are. They are an essential component in any growers’ garden, fulfilling various plant/root tasks. That is why it is important to introduce fungi with other beneficial inputs into cannabis gardens to maximize plant growth potential. For this reason, we developed our fungi product to contain humic and kelp, two powerful bio-stimulants in our product MycoRhize, in addition to 12 species of mycorrhizae. Still unsure about the right mycorrhizae product to go with? Mention this blog post to the Alpha Team and receive 25% off MycoRhize to see for yourself the benefits MycoRhize can provide to your cannabis garden!
Azcón-Aguilar, C. and Barea, J.M. 1996). Arbuscular mycorrhizas and biological control of soil-borne plant pathogens – an overview of the mechanisms involved. Mycorrhiza. 6 (6): 457-464. Retrieved 8 May, 2018 from https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs005720050147.pdf
Johnson, D. and Gilbert, L. 2015. Interplant signalling through hyphal networks. New Phytologist. 205 (4): 1448–1453.
Porcel, R., Aroca, R. and Ruiz-Lozano, J.M. 2012. Salinity stress alleviation using arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 32: 181-200 (2).
Zdenka, B., Gilbert, L., Toby, J. A., Bruce, M.B., John, C.C., Woodcock, C., Pickett, J.A. and Johnson, D. 2013. Underground signals carried through common mycelial networks warn neighbouring plants of aphid attack. Ecology Letters. 16.7: 835–43.