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Mycorrhizal Associations; symbiotic fungi and improved fields

Topic Type: 
Idea

Mycorrhizal fungi are mushrooms that work symbiotically with plant life, eg. our crops, by exchanging nutrients, carbohydrates, sugars, and water. Plants can benefit from this relationship by receiving moisture and nutrients trapped in the soil too deeply for the plants roots to access. The mushroom network, aka 'mycelium' acts as an extension of the root system by bringing these materials to the plants roots. The mushrooms, in exchange, receive the carbohydrates and sugars that support their own growth and health. These mycorrhizal associations improve soil microbiology, soil texture, and crop yields. They also enable plants to have a more secure source of water during drought-like conditions. Interested in more? Check out 'Paul Stamets', a mycologist, and http://mycorrhizas.info/

Who is interested in this or has experience?

Louis's picture

I saw a Samet's TED talk and then I read one of his mushroom books and I'm hooked. I just haven't had an opportunity to experiment and research further. I'm working on a business that makes sensor networks for farms though so using those to manage mushroom cultures sounds intriguing to me.

Dorn's picture

I have been working with some of the folks at the Cornell Soil Health Lab on this. There has been some discussion about how to incorporate low cost indicators into the soil test. There are several options currently being explored. Dan Moebius Clune, who is now working on some of the new indicators for the Cornell soil health test ( http://soilhealth.cals.cornell.edu/ ) just finished his doctorate looking at the exchange of nitrogen for energy that happens at the plant root level. The exchange is facilitated through the microryza community. He was focusing on the bean and corn interaction, but the microryza community is key in other legume non-legume exchanges. I know there is also work on how various cover crops effect this community positively or negatively - for example many of the brasicas like canola and mustard are very hard on microryza community. I certainly agree that understanding these systems are key to water management, root health, and resilient agriculture in general.

Meatball's picture

We're using Korean Farming Technique http://www.bioponica.org/enhancing-fertility-with-microbes to colonize microbes for our soilless grow beds. Bacteria and fungi can be sourced from earth underling old growth hardwoods and within bamboo root systems. Start process by seeding hard boiled rice then transfer to dry molasses tub and store as putty. Then sprinkle onto grow media. Between that and homemade organic hydroponic liquid fertilizers we're colonizing some bad ass bugs. Worms love the environment too, keeping bad bugs at bay and seeding with whatever they grow in their guts.

Gspevak11's picture

Radical Mycology has a great overview of mycorrhizal fungi, and details on cultivating endomycorrhizal fungi here... (http://radicalmycology.com/educational-tools/other-fungi/mycorrhizal-fungi-101/)

They refer to instructions from the Rodale Institute: http://rodaleinstitute.org/2010/quick-and-easy-guide-on-farm-am-fungus-inoculum-production

gordo287's picture

I really recommend the article Gspevak11 shared! Using grasses in pots you can amplify mycorrhizal populations from local soil samples. The benefit being that those species are theoretically better acclimated to your region's conditions. As the grasses grow their fibrous root systems this creates abundant habitat for the mycorrhizae in the soil sample. They proliferate and when the grass senesces the fungi will sporulate making the soil around the roots rich with spores that can be used to inoculate new roots. A useful for inoculant for soil-based mycoremediation projects as well!

http://rodaleinstitute.org/a-complete-how-to-on-farm-am-fungus-inoculum-production/

I did this at home with rye. You can see the fungal hyphae on the soil surface. Cool proof of concept.