Written By: Zach Champ
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There is a whole network underground in the soil that we are unaware of. This system connects plants together allowing them to share much needed vital resources. It is composed of hair-like fungi called Mycorrhizae.
This fungus is quickly becoming a popular subject in botany, agriculture, gardening, and organic farming… and for several reasons!
JUST WHAT EXACTLY IS MYCORRHIZAE?
You may have heard of Mycorrhizae and are wondering just what exactly it is?
Mycorrhizae is a special type of fungi that attaches itself to the root systems of host plants. Mycorrhizae can and will often connect to multiple plant’s root systems within a given area of soil. It plays a key role in maintaining the health and nutrients within the soil. Mycorrhizae works by feeding off the energy produced by plants during photosynthesis.
As you may know, during photosynthesis plants take solar energy from the sun and convert this energy into sugar in the chlorophyll for use within the plant. Mycorrhizae is unable to produce energy from photosynthesis (it lacks chlorophyll like plants) and must seek external sources of sugar to survive. Almost ¾ of all vascular plant species utilize symbiotic relationships with Mycorrhizae fungi!
HOW IS MYCORRHIZAE BENEFICIAL?
You would think that being a fungus and attaching itself to the plant’s root systems that Mycorrhizae is dangerous and parasitic. However, this is not the case as Mycorrhizae engages in a symbiotic and mutualistic relationship with its host plant’s root system. This means that both organisms are connected together and operate cooperatively. Neither one is harmful to the other.
Mycorrhizae provides an exchange of minerals and water in return for energy in the form of sugar from the host plant. It often serves as a secondary root system for plants in this regard, drawing in the minerals and water from the surrounding soil. Mycorrhizae is important because it helps host plants fight off toxic bacteria and compounds, as well as resist bugs. This is done through the fungi’s ability to secrete a special enzyme that sterilizes the nearby soil.
WHERE CAN I FIND MYCORRHIZAE?
Mycorrhizae are only found with vascular plants, meaning those which have roots. Mycorrhizae create fine filament-like threads that spread throughout the soil and connect to different plant root systems.
Mycorrhizae can cover up to three times as many areas in the soil as the regular roots of a plant! This makes it a valuable tool for aiding a plant’s survival and helping a plant grow. This fact has also made it valuable to organic farmers who often utilize mycorrhizae in gardens and farmland. Mycorrhizae can even be utilized in indoor farming and potted plants!
You can find mycorrhiza as a cheaply available product at your local garden supply store.