Modern theorists assert that living organisms and their inorganic surroundings have evolved together as a single living system that greatly affects the chemistry and conditions of Earth's surface. Mutually beneficial relationships between organisms provide advantages beyond the scope of the organism working on its own.
Within the landscaping industry the use of Mycorrhizae has been quickly adopted as a mainstream technology for several decades now; there is a lot of evidence provided by respected universities and virtually all professional growers utilise the benefit that symbiotic relationships provide through mycorrhizal fungi.
What are mycorrhizae?
Root systems of perennial plants are naturally colonised by mycorrhizae. These are fungi that occur within soils that increase the ability of the plant to absorb nutrients and water; extending an advantage to the plant, particularly in periods of stress when these resources are critical e.g. during transplanting or establishment.
Mycorrhizae are categorised into two types: AM (Endo) and Ecto mycorrhizal fungi. Arbuscular Mycorrhizae, also referred to as AM or endomycorrhizae, penetrate the outermost layer of the root unlike ectomycorrhizae which do not penetrate the host's cell walls but form an interface composed of branched hyphae known as the Hartig net.
The relationship between the fungi and the plant is variable and complex, in some instances the fungi modifies the plant's response using chemical and hormonal instructions. Mycorrhizal symbiosis can also modify the way in which water moves through the soil and even the pH in the immediate vicinity of the root. The additional network obtained by the relationship of the mycorrhizal fungi effectively means that the root system is increased significantly.
Are the mycorrhizal fungi plant specific?
Numerous studies have concluded that although a plant can be colonised by several different species of mycorrhizae, different plants are closely associated with the type of mycorrhizae i.e. AM (Endo) or Ecto. This reason for this is linked to the type of soils these species naturally grow in.
Does soil pH make a difference?
Mycorrhizal plants occur in all terrestrial systems where the host plant grows, this ranges where plants can grow from a pH of 3 to 9.5, though most landscape planting ranges from 4 to 8, comfortably accommodating the needs of both the plant host and the mycorrhizal fungi. Generally oaks, pines and birches together with ectomycorrhizal fungi prefer acidic soils whereas ash, dogwood and roses along with endomycorrhizal fungi occur across a broad range of soil pH with a greater number of species occurring on alkaline soils.
What is the effect of phosphate on mycorrhizal fungi?
Soils that contain a large amount of available phosphate tend to reduce the colonisation of mycorrhizal fungi. This is thought to be due to an adaptation by the plant. In exchange for the extension of resources provided by mycorrhizal fungi in conventional situations, the plant provides sugars that have been manufactured by the plant that the fungi can't create, this constitutes the symbiotic relationship. However, with readily available forms of phosphate the plant opts to restrict fungal colonisation. This is a relationship that the plant is very much in control of and can effectively increase or decrease the degree to which the roots are colonised, particularly in relation to the amount of available phosphate - commonly the limiting factor for plant growth.
The effect of soil temperature on mycorrhizal colonisation
Mycorrhizal fungi are living organisms that operate within a preferred temperature range though this relates soil temperatures which are different to air temperatures: soils cool later in the year and are slower to warm in the spring. The specifics are due to a number of factors such as the mycorrhizae, some specialise at growing at lower temperatures, or the host plant, where again there is variation. Typically, colonisation occurs between a temperature range of 5 °C and 30 °C, though with an optimum for the majority of species between 10 °C and 25 °C.
So how does Mycological differ?
Mycological has been created by one of the landscaping industries leading suppliers in response to a need to supply products that are formulated to work. Five different formulations, each designed to fulfil a specific planting requirement:
- Mycological Granular - is an inoculant that is designed to be incorporated into the planting medium. This context provides an ideal opportunity to introduce the mycorrhizal fungi to the host plant and by evenly distributing it through the medium within a granular organic carrier that also delivers 3% nitrogen, 1.8% phosphate and 4.8% potassium you are ensuring that the host plant will become inoculated and receive the best start it can get.
- Mycological Rootdip is mixed with water to form a paste that can be applied to the bare roots of tree whips and seedlings. The root dip contains a broad range of Endo and Ecto mycorrhizal species, biofixed soil bacteria and fungi, concentrated seaweed, water retaining polymers plus activating nutrients, amino acids and vitamins. Suitable for all bare root and small containerised (less than 1 litre) plants except ericoids. This method of application provides the ideal opportunity to ensure the host plant is inoculated because the medium containing the mycorrhizal species are coating the roots.
- Formulated without mycorrhiza because Mycological Planting Tablets do not facilitate inoculation: it isn't placed against the plant root system and the medium contains phosphate which will inhibit mycorrhizal association. Mycological Planting Tablets are specifically formulated specifically to deliver nutrient in a form the plant can use at a time that it can use it. Maxwell Mycological provide a total feeding solution for healthy trees and shrubs with each tablet incorporating vital macro and micro nutrients to solve the most common deficiency problems preventing green-up and growth. Special binders release the elements over time up to 12 months depending on your soil type and climate.
- Mycological Complete contains 18 species of mycorrhiza, minerals, trace elements and humates, making it the complete planting package. Mycological Complete helps improve transplant survival rates, accelerates growth and reduces the need for fertiliser, water and fungicide. Mycological Complete can also revive established mature trees and increase the natural vigour and health of the plant. The ideal product to apply to in situ planting where there is little opportunity to apply the mycorrhiza to the host plants root system.
- Mycological Mycorrmax Planting Compost is a non peat-based compost consisting of a blend of recycled green waste and fine composted bark producing a friable open compost ideal for the professional landscaper. Screened and graded, the compost is then blended with an organic fertiliser, bio-stimulants and 18 species of ecto and endo mycorrhizae. The neutral to slightly acid pH makes this compost ideal for the broadest range of landscaping and reclamation projects.