It’s easy to assume that plant roots are simple water sponges. Plants require water to grow, and they draw this water from roots in the ground. While true, this is a radically simplified version of what happens at the root-soil interface.
Plant roots are much more complex. They interact with microorganisms and fungi to form communication systems and nutrient processing networks. In our composting article, we talked about how composting can help build the bacteria-root relationship. Today, we’ll be focusing on the fungi-root relationship.
Fungi interact with roots in a mutually-beneficial way, collectively known as mycorrhizae. This intimate and fascinating connection has allowed plants to evolve, providing resistance to disease and drought.
For growers, fungal inoculation is a great way to support plant growth. However, all fungi are not created equal and care should be taken to introduce the right fungi into your growing system. In The Top Five Cannabis Diseases, we saw that some of the biggest threats to cannabis plants are fungi. So, how do you know what’s safe and beneficial for your plants?
BlueSky Organics has the solution. Myco-Grow is a fungal inoculating powder that introduces mycorrhizae-supporting fungi into your plant system. It also helps to fight against unwanted fungal infections. Let’s dive into why mycorrhizae are so important to plant roots, and what Myco-Grow has to offer.
More Than Mushrooms
Fungi are commonly associated with tasty culinary mushrooms, found in a great variety at supermarkets and farmer’s markets. On the unwanted side, fungal infections can also be associated with human disease. Fungi are common in our everyday lives, but most people don’t know much about them.
In the classification of life, there are six main kingdoms: Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaea, and Bacteria. In terms of biological significance, fungi are on par with animals and plants. In fact, scientists believe that without teaming up with fungi, plants would never have been able to leave the oceans and evolve to grow on land.
At the most basic level, fungi are made up of tiny branching strands known as hyphae. A network of hyphae is known as mycelium. Mycelium are gaining popularity in the organic food sector, being developed as the base protein in products like vegan steak.
Mycelium networks often form near the roots of growing plants. This adjacent layer of soil is known as the rhizosphere, and facilitates the ongoing exchange of molecules between fungi and plants. The plant, able to capture energy from light, passes on that energy in the form of sugar molecules to the fungi. In return, fungi offer nutrients from the surrounding soil. This mutually beneficial relationship can also be described as symbiosis.
Mycorrhizae symbiosis is the most common type of partnership formed among plants. You can think of this fungi as an extension of the plant’s root systems. Without it, many plant species would not be able to harness enough water and minerals to survive. One type of endomycorrhizal fungi is found in almost 80% of all plant species and is thought to have evolved over 475 million years ago.
The Start of Symbiosis
Symbiotic relationships begin when a fungal spore, a tiny molecule that allows fungi to reproduce, infects a plant root that has grown into the nearby soil. Fungal spores can lie dormant for thousands of years, just waiting for the chance to start this relationship. Once a suitable host has been found, the spore germinates and infects the plant. As the infected plant transfers energy to the fungus, the fungus begins to grow.
The fungus grows outwards from the root to form the mycelium, but also inwards. The fungal hyphae penetrate the plant root cells and spreads through the plant, in a process known as colonization. In endomycorrhizal fungi, the hyphae form specialized sites of nutrient exchange, called arbuscules.
Plant cells around arbuscules reorganize their internal structure to accommodate their new tenants. In turn, fungal arbuscules give up control of their growth and provide vital nutrients to the plant.
The Gift of Nutrients
Potassium is one of the “Big Three” macronutrients needed for plant growth. It is an important element in plant metabolism, aiding in photosynthesis and overall plant health. Endomycorrhizal fungi provide potassium and nitrogen to the plant, as well as other important micronutrients such as copper and zinc.
Many of the nutrients required by plants are water-soluble, meaning that rainfall or other sources of water can carry them away from the roots. Plants require water to grow, but too much can deprive a crop of vital nutrients.
Luckily, the radical hyphae (the fungal strands growing away from the plant) spread into the soil are capture nutrients, preventing nutrient loss. The radical hyphae also break down organic material, similar to bacteria in composting, creating an additional source of nutrition.
Mycorrhizae & Cannabis
In a recent study, 53 types of fungi were found in the stalks, leaves, and seeds of cannabis plans. This diversity is one of the reasons organic cannabis growers are interested in mycorrhizae. Beyond providing key nutrients, mycorrhizal fungi accelerate plant growth through improving soil structure and moisture retention. This increases drought resistance, heavy metal tolerance and protects crops against disease.
Endomycorrhizal inoculation, or the addition of these beneficial fungi to growing systems, has been proven to increase crop yield and quality. This can be improved by adding organic materials to the mixture, such as yucca and kelp extract.
Yucca extract protects your plant against non-beneficial fungi, improving the chances of infection and colonization by the desired endomycorrhizal fungi. Kelp contains alginate, a compound not found in terrestrial plants. This addition improves the germination of endomycorrhizal spores.
BlueSky Organics & Myco-Grow
BlueSky Organics is committed to organic growth, with a focus on healthy soils full of symbiotic relationships. To do this, we embrace the magic of mycorrhizae. Our Myco-Grow blend contains four species of highly pure and viable endomycorrhizal fungi, with added inoculation boosters yucca and kelp extract.
Bearing in mind that mycorrhizal relationships are enhanced by interactions with other microorganisms, we recommend using Myco-Grow in tandem with Vit-Alive compost tea. This combination provides the perfect environment for cannabis plants to grow, sustainably and exceptionally.
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