The benefits of using mycorrhizal mushrooms when planting plants
Many experienced gardeners have heard about the symbiosis of the root system of plants with special fungi - mycorrhiza. Mostly, mycorrhiza is mentioned in recommendations for the cultivation of acidic soil lovers, such as blueberries and conifers. Recently, mycorrhiza preparations began to catch my eye in garden shops more and more, and I decided to study the issue in more detail. As it turned out, mycorrhiza is extremely useful not only for blueberries and all kinds of “Christmas trees”. It is of interest to almost all gardeners, because it benefits even fruit trees. In this article I will tell you what mycorrhizal fungi are, and how they affect the root system of cultivated plants.
What is mycorrhiza?
According to scientists, mycorrhizal fungi arose at least 460 million years ago and played a key role in the evolution of plant life. However, only the last 20 years, plant growers began to understand how important these fungi play in the development of plants. At that time, the first attempts were made to use mycorrhiza to increase yield and increase plant viability.
The word "mycorrhiza" is formed by combining two words: ‘myco’ ("mushroom") and "riza" ("root"). Thus, the name reflects the essence of this organism - the implementation of the connection between the fungus and the root. The mushrooms that form this relationship are called mycorrhizal mushrooms or mycorrhizal fungi.
The interaction of fungi and the root system of plants is a symbiosis. As a result of such mutually beneficial cooperation, mycorrhizal fungi receive from the plant the carbon necessary for the development and growth of the fungus, and in exchange provide moisture and nutrients from the soil to the root of the plant.
Experts believe that more than 80% of the species of higher plants are able to form a symbiosis with mycorrhiza, including all fruit trees and shrubs that we grow in our gardens. There are also certain types of plants that simply cannot survive without mycorrhizal fungi.
If we consider mycorrhizal fungi among forest edibles, it should be noted that most of them "specialize" in specific trees. So, a larch oiler forms mycorrhiza only with larch. In some regions, porcini mushroom can “cohabit” with oak, birch, pine and spruce (for example, in St. Petersburg and the region), and in the south with hornbeam and beech. Boletus, saffron, mushroom, chanterelle are also examples of mycorrhizal fungi.
Mycorrhizal fungi consist of long thin hyphae that come into contact with the cells of the root system of the plant and then spread in the surrounding soil in search of nutrients and water.
Among the mycorrhizal fungi, the most common:
- Endomycorrhizal fungi - Hyphae of this type of fungi actually grow into cells of the root system of plants. This type of mycorrhizal fungi cannot be seen without magnification under the microscope, since their main part is located inside the root, and on the surface the presence of the fungus is weakly expressed. Endomycorrhizal fungi enter into symbiosis with almost all types of plants - from the tiniest herbs to gigantic trees, but in most cases have relationships with herbaceous plants.
- Ectomycorrhizal mushrooms - this type of mushroom grows on the outer side of the roots, forming a shell that can look like a cover or the so-called “mycorrhizal tubes”. Hyphae spread along the intercellular spaces without penetrating into the cells themselves. Ectomycorrhizal fungi predominantly enter into symbiosis with certain types of trees, such as, for example, pine and birch. In this case, root hairs are not observed on the roots of plants.
The benefits of mycorrhizal fungi for cultivated plants
First of all, hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi spread in the soil, providing the root system with a much larger area for absorbing moisture and essential nutrients. Although the root system of many plants can be quite powerful, mycorrhiza hyphae can reach hundreds of meters, as if being a continuation of the root.
Mycorrhiza intensively decomposes coarse organic substances into simple elements, making them readily available for plant nutrition. Symbiotic mushrooms provide the plant with such nutrients as potassium, nitrogen, zinc and others. This means that the gardener will need to make much less fertilizer when growing crops that are in a similar symbiosis. Watering such plants is also less necessary, because their resistance to drought is significantly increased due to mycorrhiza, which extracts moisture from great depths.
Regarding the question of whether it is possible to feed plants with subgrown mycorrhiza, fertilizing with mineral fertilizers is, in principle, not prohibited. But it is important to maintain their low concentration in the soil, as this can harm both the plant and the fungi.
Mycorrhiza shows itself well when used together with long-acting granular fertilizers, effectively processing them into forms accessible to the plant.
Naturally, mycorrhiza is successfully used in organic farming.
Protecting plants from pests and diseases
Mycorrhizal fungi secreting certain enzymes create a physical barrier around the root system of plants, thus protecting them from pathogens, pests and small insects that feed on roots.
Mycorrhizal fungi have significant antimicrobial and antifungal properties, therefore, they can suppress the development of root and fruit rot of cultivated plants, fungal infections (fusarium, late blight, scab) and other diseases. They significantly increase the resistance of crops to parasites and nematodes.
In addition, mycorrhizal fungi contribute to the restoration and improvement of the soil as a whole. This is due to the fact that they produce the glomaline sticky protein. This substance helps reduce erosion and stabilizes the texture of the soil. It is believed that glomalin contains more than a third of world carbon and is completely harmless.
Higher yields and better fruit quality
Symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi contributes to better survival of plants. Under the influence of such fungi, the root system of crops actively develops, their immunity strengthens, and the taste and aesthetic characteristics of berries and fruits are noticeably improved.
An experiment was conducted in Kent in Britain. Artificial beds in the form of bags with soil, which are often used there to grow strawberries and raspberries, do not contain natural mycobiota. The study showed that bed-beds with strawberry bushes treated with mycorrhizal fungi showed a statistically significantly higher yield and larger fruits than those plants grown without the use of mycorrhiza.
Exchange of nutrients between plants
Mycorrhizal fungi have another unique ability, they form underground communication networks, because interwoven hyphae can create symbiosis with several plants at the same time. As a result of this, they become conductors between plants and arteries for the exchange of nutrients. Wherein most strains of mycorrhizal fungi do not produce fruiting bodies, which would be completely redundant in this context of the use of the fungus.
What are mycorrhizal preparations?
As mentioned above, all fruit trees and shrubs, as well as vegetable crops that we grow on our site, are able to form a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi occur naturally in the soil, but regular use of chemicals (large amounts of mineral fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, etc.) deplete mycorrhiza populations. Therefore, it is advisable to additionally introduce mycorrhiza into the soil.
Today, there are many myco-preparations of Western and domestic production based on mycorrhizal fungi on sale. Most often, mycorrhiza goes on sale in the form of powder or granules that are introduced into the soil during planting. Thanks to a special technology, in contact with the roots, fungi populate the root system of the plant in just two weeks, while in the presence of mycorrhiza in the soil under natural conditions, this process can take years.
Another form of myco-drugs is liquid (ready-made solution packaged in vials). This form has its pros and cons. On the one hand, the effect of their use is manifested faster (it will take some time for the powder and granules to activate the spores), but at the same time, the shelf life of the liquid preparation is more limited compared to dry forms.
Myco-preparations are different in composition and may contain only one strain or several different strains of mycorrhiza. Also, manufacturers often add beneficial bacteria to them (Bacillus subtilis, licheniformis, azotoformans, megaterium and others), Bacillus rhizospores, seaweed flour and humic acids.
How to use mycorrhiza?
Planting plants with a closed root system
When planting seedlings with a lump of earth, for example, when transplanting and planting container plants to a permanent place, you just need to introduce granules into the planting hole and fill it with soil, as with the usual application of granular fertilizers. Usually, 5 grams (teaspoon) of mycorrhiza powder is required per plant, but it is better to check the instructions for a specific preparation before use.
Planting plants with an open root system
When planting trees, shrubs or seedlings of strawberries with bare roots (open root system), it is better to moisten the roots by dipping them in water, and then dip them into a container with granules immediately before planting.
Sometimes on sale there are the so-called "professional mycorrhiza", where a special sachet with gel is in the kit. In this case, it is necessary to mix the gel with water until a homogeneous paste is formed (like an emulsion), mix the granules with the gel and dip the roots of the plant. This option provides maximum contact between the roots and mycorrhizal fungi.
In container gardening
In container growing, mycorrhiza plants are kneaded with a substrate. Micropreparations can be used in any substrates: earth, peat, coconut fiber, mineral wool and hydroponics. When using mycorrhiza in container gardening, it is important to observe several conditions in order to efficiently colonize the substrate with fungi:
- the substrate should be constantly moist for the first two weeks from the moment of application of the drug, that is, it must be regularly moistened; after this period, watering should be regular, as necessary, but the main thing is to prevent the soil from completely drying out;
- when using mycorrhiza, antifungal drugs should not be added to the substrate;
- for accelerated and successful colonization, it is recommended to feed mycorrhiza with carbohydrates, which will provide mushrooms with nutrition and accelerate their growth.
Mycorrhiza for previously planted plants
To add mycorrhiza to plants already growing on your site, you need to purchase a mycorrhiza preparation intended for the preparation of a working solution. After the powder is diluted in standing water, it is necessary to irrigate under the root. Usually, for the best effect, the procedure is repeated once every two weeks, or once a month, it is desirable that such irrigation was at least five times per season.
Mycorrhiza for seedlings
When using mycorrhiza for seedlings, it is necessary to dilute the micropreparation in settled or non-chlorinated water and water the soil abundantly in seedlings about 2-3 days before the start of sowing seeds. In the future, after picking seedlings, peaked seedlings are watered with a working solution of mycorrhiza. If there are several picks, then the plants are shed with a solution each time.
Important: For the preparation of emulsions or solutions with mycorrhiza, only filtered or distilled water must be used. Chlorine compounds in tap water inhibit the development of fungi. If it is not possible to use filtered or distilled water, then you need to defend the water from the tap, at least during the day.