Mycorrhizal Fungi: Funny name, big benefits!
May 10, 2016
Mycorrhizae is a term used to describe fungi that has a beneficial symbiotic relationship with surrounding trees and other plants. Because its activity occurs beneath the soil surface, it may be hard to detect that mycorrhizae is there at all. However, when conditions are right, you may see the fruiting bodies of present mycorrhizae - better known as mushrooms!
While mushroom caps can sometimes be cause for concern, as they may signal the presence of a fungal disease or decay in your tree, these mushrooms belong to beneficial fungi.
What exactly is Mycorrhizae?
Mycorrhizal fungi grow beneath the soil, bonding with and interconnecting the roots of your trees. Mycorrhizae forms a network of mycelium around the root system of your plants and trees (mycelium and the white “root-like” structures that make up the main body of the fungi). The most common type is, Arbuscular mycorrhizas, which forms this relationship by bonding with the cells of the plant’s roots.
Mycorrhizae attached to plant roots improves moisture retention and aids in nutrient absorption. Mycorrhizae can quickly break down organic matter, making nutrients more available to your trees and other landscape plants.
When mycorrhizae is present, good things happen. Because mycorrhizal fungi boost water and nutrient uptake, they help make your trees stronger. When your trees are healthy and vigorous, they become less susceptible to pests and diseases. Mycorrhizal fungi can also help in detoxifying your soils and protecting your plants from harmful heavy metals.
How do you encourage more Mycorrhizae?
In nature, mycorrhizae is abundant in the soil without our help. Why? Every year leaf litter covers or “mulches” the soil around the forest floor. This organic matter breaks down and keeps the soil cool through the summer months, thus protecting the soil from harm. In an urban environment, our soils have to suffer much more abuse, and don’t always benefit from a nice layer of leaf litter. When soil is left exposed, beneficial fungi often dies off due to excessive light, heat, cold, compaction or erosion. Insulating your soil with mulch, plants, or even grass protects the organisms and fungi living beneath. To encourage more beneficial mycorrhizae in your urban landscape, mulch is always the first best step.
Feeding your soil with organic soil conditioners, and adding organic compost, can also help boost levels of beneficial mycorrhizae. All of which we do with our natural SEASONS program. Whether you’re feeding your trees and landscape on your own, or having professionals take care of the job for you, make sure that feeding your soil (not just the plants) is a priority.