Understanding Mycorrhizal fungi for Cannabis Gardening
The complex ecosystem on earth is a good sign of the vast diversity of plants and organisms in it. The understanding of ecology which is the study of the complex relationships between organisms and their environment has led to the knowledge of that which exist between plant, fungi and the soil. I will explain all you need to know about Mycorrhizal fungi and its relation to our crops.
What are Mycorrhizal fungi?
They are an amazing set of living organisms that contribute immensely to plants growth, development and overall health over the years (of about 460 million years) (Rader 2015). The word mycorrhizae originate from Greek. It is a combination of two Greek words, mycos, meaning ‘fungus’ and rhiza, which means ‘root’. Thus, mycorrhizae basically mean fungus root.
Mycorrhiza is a term used to explain the important relationship that exists between some group of fungi and the roots of our plants. It refers to the role fungi plays in the root system of plants (the rhizosphere) (Kirk et al., 2001). Although, in most cases, people wrongly refer to mycorrhiza as a type of fungi. It is a structure with a symbiotic relationship that takes place between plants root and a fungus, which raises the fitness to either one or the two partners (Read, 1999).
In this mutual relationship, the plant root is the host upon which these beneficial fungi act on. Mycorrhizal fungi attach to the plants’ root which improves the ability of the plant to take up nutrients and water. The chlorophyll of the plant absorbs the solar energy and releases it to the mycorrhizal fungi in the form of carbohydrate food sources. The crops make carbohydrates available for the fungi, on the other hand, the fungi builds and raises the ability of the crop to absorb phosphorus and essential nutrients from the soil. The fungi grow a secondary root system, which is significantly very more effective than normal plants’ roots. They protect the root and increases its resistance to diseases by forming a sheath around it. There are about 2,000 known various species of fungi that really forms the mycorrhizal associations (Rader, 2015). Approximately 90% of all non-aquatic plants are part of the mycorrhizal family (Trappe, 1987).
Types of Mycorrhizal Fungi
Mycorrhizal association are majorly grouped into two; they are ectomycorrhizae (ECM) and endomycorrhizas/arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM). The differences lie on the point that ECM hyphae will not be able to enter the roots, unlike the endomycorrhizae that penetrates easily into the cell wall. Other groups include the Vesicular-Arbuscular (VA) mycorrhizae, ericoid mycorrhizae (ERM), monotropoid mycorrhizae, orchid mycorrhizae, and arbutoid mycorrhizae. The VA are common in the shrublands, tropical rainforests and grasslands, and dominate about 80% of all plant species. ERM is found mostly in the alpine areas and heathlands while ECM is common in the temperate forest regions though with less percentage but with higher area coverage. The ECM relationship is precise to certain roots of trees these include spruces, pines, oaks, willows, and birches.
Formation of Mycorrhizal Fungi
Naturally, mycorrhizal fungi spread in the soil over time but this takes a number of years. This long period of time brings about limitations to its benefits to our plants and gardens precisely. The spread of the spores is possible through the movement of spores (reproductive particles of fungus) which can be achieved through the help of forces that can move soils. These include water, heavy winds, gophers and macro-organisms like worms. The spores of AM fungi are big and have weight, thus can be spread by intense force of all the above-mentioned media, whereas, ECM spores are lighter and can be spread by either wind or water. Another limitation of this natural means is that they are not host specific. This becomes a problem since fungal species like ECM are host specific, thus, facing the challenge of the spores not moved to the right place. Therefore, there is a need for artificial or home mycorrhizal fungi inoculation.
Soils disturbed by human activities such as bush burning, industrial wastes and over usage for agricultural activities have minimal mycorrhizae. Such that they may be insufficient to improve growth, development and overall health of plants. Thus, this calls for more home inoculation to meet the demand. Home inoculation has been found to have no negative side effects on plants even for plants which are not compatible with certain mycorrhizae species. A necessary decision to make at this point is whether to acquire inoculants from soils or to source it from commercial sources. If you lack prominent mycorrhizae populations in your medium, then you might want to think about adding MycoRhize, our 12 species blend of mycorrhizae, kelp, and humic acid formulation. It was formulated to act as a biostimulant and mycorrhizae inoculant, to supercharge micro organism growth and diversity in any medium. This proprietary and concentrated formula will make 5 gallons of out 1 teaspoon.
It is best to place the inoculant at a contact point between either the roots of the transplanted crop or the growing seed meets the soil most. With this, the fungal spores are established within a short time. It has been found that focusing mycorrhizal fungi close to the roots yields better results than broadcasting. It also saves costs with the farmer using little quantity.
In conclusion, mycorrhizal fungi protect plant roots from numerous diseases and improve its capacity to absorb water present in the soil. This helps to moisten the root and reduces dehydration, especially in dry soils. Hence, an adequate understanding of how mycorrhizal fungi functions greatly assists in improving the health of plants alongside the quantity and quality of its yields in our gardens as well as drastically reducing the need for inorganic fertilizers and water.
Kirk, P. M.; Cannon, P. F.; David, J. C. & Stalpers, J. (2001). Ainsworth and Bisby’s Dictionary of the Fungi (9th ed.). Wallingford, UK: CAB International.
Rader, H. 2015. Mycorrhizae in the Alaska Landscape. University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. HGA-00026.
Reader, D. J. 1999. Mycorrhizas in Ecosystems. Advances in Plant Pathology 9, 1-32.
Trappe, J. M. 1987. Phylogenetic and ecologic aspects of mycotrophy in the angiosperms from an evolutionary standpoint. In Ecophysiology of VA mycorrhizal plants, Ed G R Safir. CRC Press, Boca Raton.