Plant & Fungi Symbiosis Benefits Also Aid Gardeners By Improving Plant Growth & Soil Health. This Article Explains More About The Mutuality Where Plants, Humans & Fungi Can Work Together.
So often we hear about how plants suffer from fungal infection. So often Plant & Fungi Symbiosis Benefits are forgotten. The reality is that the benefits far outweigh the negatives simply because plants and fungi have found ways to work together in a symbiotic way that also benefits us as gardeners and growers. It’s a branch of science that has developed during my lifetime and is only now becoming truly apparent. I wish I’d known more when I had my market garden or, better still, when I first trained in horticulture and agriculture.
Below I bullet point the main benefits for plants, fungi and gardeners but first lets look at the background to Plant & Fungi Symbiosis.
An Introduction to Plant & Fungi Symbiosis
Though science has only really delved into this symbiosis in any depth in recent times the interaction probably started as the first plants developed on land. It’s a perfectly natural process for healthy plants and fungi to undertake. It’s not something weird or unusual.
In fact it’s almost the other way around. It’s quite unusual for plants and fungi not to want to form symbiotic relationships.
And the majority of plants and fungi do form symbiotic relationships. Only a few species of plants have been observed NOT choosing to, or benefiting from, symbiosis with fungi. The most common sort of relationship is with arbuscular fungi. Here the fungal hyphae enter the plant roots and are found in the spaces between the root cells. In some circumstances the fungi actually enter the plant cells and the plant benefits from this. Especially when the fungi undergoes “lysis” and releases nutrients.
Another form of relationship is with ectomycorrhizal fungi, here the fungi surrounds the roots but doesn’t enter into the cells spaces or cells.
Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with ericaceous and related plants that prefer acid conditions. Plant examples include blueberry, cranberry, lingonberry and rhododendrons.
There is also a huge number of orchids that form relationships with orchid mycorrhiza.
Fungi are heterotrophs and need to absorb their food. They cannot produce their own food. They need plants to donate nutrients to them. But it’s not one sided as the plants get plenty in return. For example plants often have difficulty obtaining and absorbing many of the essential nutrients they need, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus. And fungi are excellent at producing them in exchange for the carbon plants give in return (usually as sugars).
Plant & Fungi Symbiosis Benefits for Plants & Fungi
- Provides the basis for a balanced nutrient uptake across the spectrum of essential requirements
- Ensures healthy forest succession – see below regarding seedlings
- Enables plant-to-plant communication. Electrical signals can pass between plants using the mycorrhizal network as a communications channel
- Enables ecosystem resiliency and reliability.
- As seedlings germinate and grow on the forest floor the symbiotic relationship allows large trees to support the smaller ones with nutrients and water via the mycorrhizal network
- Fungi prevents “damping off” disease
- When transplanting fungi reduces plant transplant shock
- Fungi supports root initiation of cuttings made by gardeners.
- The fungal network extends the reach of roots searching for nutrients
- The network also greatly increases surface area available for nutrient and water uptake
- The fungi can unlock nutrients such as phosphorus that plants struggle to access
- The above improves the uptake of trace elements that are vital for photosynthesis and growth
- Fungi can break down organic material and release nutrients such as nitrogen
- The above increases nutrient density of crops .. many reports are to be found of nutrient levels in todays veg being lower than in previous decades.
- The presence of the fungal network and plant exudates stabilises soil aggregates and improves soil structure and porosity
- both fungi and plants sequester carbon into the soil
- The relationship improves with plant growth and yield as is demonstrated by many research papers
- Fungi enables moisture movement across the soil
- Fungi encourages deeper root penetration …. but still reaches much further than roots can or do.
- Fungi suppress root pathogens due toi competition and a dilution effect.
- Research demonstrates how the symbiosis improves photosynthesis
- Fungi supply the trace elements essential for protein and lipid synthesis
- Lipids (plant fats and oils) provide the plants with a highly concentrated energy reserve for seeds etc and is what we often harvest eg olive oil, rapeseed oil etc
- Ensures plants are healthier.
Benefits For Humans
- Reduces dependance on fertilisers
- Breaks up sub-soil pans
- Can be used to reduce or mediate heavy metal toxicity
- Assists plant resilience in saline conditions
- Improves high soil temperature tolerance
- Reduces irrigation need.
More On Fungi
There are many more posts about fungi on this site. To view them just click this fungi link.
My favourite, and a good starting point, is …
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