|What are Mycorrhizal fungi?|
Mycorrhizal fungi are a naturally occurring soil borne fungus that can have a highly beneficial symbiotic relationship with a host plant. In fact the word ‘mycorrhiza’ itself is made up of two Greek words meaning ‘fungus’ and ‘root’. This ‘symbiotic’ relationship is one in which both host plant and fungus receive some benefit.
From this mycelium structure the host plant is able to not only extend its reach by proxy; it will also receive essential nutrients and a greater availability of vital water. In effect the mycelium structure acts as an extensive secondary root system, not only promoting healthy and sustainable growth for the host plant but also enabling it to withstand the stress of drought and prevent some of the soil-borne fungal pathogens such as Phytophthora sp.and Armillaria sp. entering the roots.
Although the use of mycorrhizal fungi has been a relative newcomer to modern horticultural practice, examination of fossilised plants and studies of specific DNA sequences have shown that this symbiotic relationship has been in existence for over 400 million years.
Main image credit - Ellen Larsson, Source R. Henrik Nilsson, Erik Kristiansson, Martin Ryberg, Karl-Henrik Larsson (2005). "Approaching the taxonomic affiliation of unidentified sequences in public databases – an example from the mycorrhizal fungi". BMC Bioinformatics 6: 178. DOI:10.1186/1471-2105-6-178 and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license
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