Mycorrhizal Fungi

Every gardener and horticulturist is curious to know what would improve their plants. You may have come across mycorrhizal fungi in your endeavor to bring out the best of your plants. However, you’re hesitant because you don’t know if it is good for all plants.

Mycorrhizal fungi are good and found in 90% of plants. They create an extended network of fine filaments on the roots that help plants absorb more nutrients. Let’s learn more about mycorrhizal fungi.

What are mycorrhizal fungi?

Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial fungi that colonize plant roots to form a symbiotic relationship. They form threadlike hyphae that draw water, nutrients, and minerals. The plant exchanges nutrients with carbohydrates formed after photosynthesis. Mycorrhizal fungi prevent heavy metal absorption and salt intake of the salt present in the soil. There are two types of mycorrhizal fungi which include:


Endomycorrhizal fungi are the most prevalent in plants. Most of the plants are in the arbuscular category. When the arbuscular fungus penetrates the root cell through its filaments, they generate a spreading network known as arbuscule. The arbuscle is where nutrient exchange in fungi and plants takes place. There’s also the production of hyphae in the roots to form a network that absorbs water and nutrients. Some endomycorrhiza plants include soybean and wheat.


Ectomycorrhiza fungi can interact directly with plant roots. They have a thick outer layer called a sheath, which protects them from harsh conditions above ground. The ectomycorrhiza fungus enters through these sheaths and then creates a network that extends throughout the root system – this is sometimes known as “mycelium.” It is mainly found in woody plants. The root branching pattern varies in different fungi associations. For instance, beech branches have a right-angle shape.

Importance of Mycorrhizal Fungi to Plants

When mycorrhizal fungi associate with the roots, they enhance their function in the plant. Commercial mycorrhizae products come in the form of tabs, tea bags, and even powder. Their benefits to plants include:

1. Improving Plant Yields and Quality

Mycorrhizal fungi improve horticultural crop yield and quality. It happens by providing plants with more water, nutrients, and minerals than they could otherwise get on their own. Mycorrhizae also improve crop yields through improved dry matter partitioning. For example, mycorrhizal fungi can increase nitrogen uptake by up to 60% in plants cultivated under low nitrogen conditions. Leading to higher protein production and better-quality grain yield under low nitrogen conditions.

2. Optimizing Nutrient Uptake, Especially Phosphorus

Phosphorous is a necessary nutrient for plant growth but is often scarce in natural soil. Especially when it’s insoluble, it requires an extended root network to uptake it. Mycorrhiza helps gather phosphorus, a non-mobile nutrient, by making its absorption easier. However, if the soil has a phosphorous-based fertilizer, it suppresses the mycorrhiza phosphorous activity.

Enhancing the Production of Healthy and Vigorous Plants

For plants to be healthy, they need a substantial supply of nutrients and water. Mycorrhizal through threadlike, branched filaments spread extensively, where they gather nutrients, minerals, and water. With balanced nutrients, plants carry out photosynthesis effectively, leading to healthy plants.

Reducing Disease

Mycorrhizal that mycelia can be used to protect plants from diseases. This is because fungi produce toxic compounds that kill off pathogens. They deplete them of nutrients, thus reducing their ability to grow and multiply.

The presence of mycelium in the soil can also improve plant health by facilitating root growth and improving nutrient uptake by roots. It provides a mechanism through which trees increase their resistance against pathogens such as Phytophthora cinnamomi, which causes Dutch elm disease.

Developing Drought Resistance

Mycorrhizae help plants survive under dry conditions by improving their drought resistance. The fungi penetrate the root hairs and secrete enzymes that break up the soil into tiny particles that can absorb water from the atmosphere. It helps reduce water loss during times of drought.

When mycorrhizae are present in the soil, they increase the soil’s water retention and nutrient availability. This can benefit dry-conditioned plants such as cacti and succulents.

Tolerance to Soil Erosion

They also help slow down or stop erosion by binding to the soil particles and allowing stabilization. The bonds formed are more potent than those formed by other plants. Mycorrhizae also help control soil erosion by reducing surface runoff and sedimentation from wind action, rain, and snow melt.

Enhances Establishment of Seedlings and Transplants

Mycorrhizae help plants establish themselves in new places by increasing their access to nutrients and water. It helps them survive when growing outside their native environment. It also causes soil compactness; hence the seedlings and transplants get firm on the ground.

Effects of Mycorrhizal on the Soil Structure

Soil structure is the pores, spaces, and particle aggregation of the soil. It’s vital for plant nutrient intake, water absorption, and fertility. Mycorrhizal fungi are crucial in aggregating soil using thin filaments that penetrate through soil particles. As a result, the soil becomes:

  • Resistant to erosion
  • Permissible to air
  • Surface crust resistance
  • Better root development
  • Compaction resistance

Are There Non-Mycorrhizal Plants?

Yes, some groups of plants are non-mycorrhizal, meaning that they don’t associate with mycorrhizal. However, they aren’t garden-grown. They include:

Parasitic Plants

The parasitic plants uptake water and nutrients by themselves; thus, they don’t depend on mycorrhizal. They get their nutrients from other plants. The parasitic plant families include Orobancheae, Santalaceae, Loranthaceae, and more.

Plants With Sand-binding Root

Sand binding roots develop persistent sheaths with hair. They use them to absorb nutrients; hence they don’t use mycorrhizal. The plants include rushes and sedges.

Plants With Capillaroid Roots

Cappillaroid roots form a cluster and dense filaments with extended hairs. They use these features for the absorption of water and nutrients. The plants include rushes.

Mustard Family Plants

Also known as Briscaceae, it has features that help the plant intake water nutrients without mycorrhizal. They also contain a chemical that destroys soil fungi.

Overall, mycorrhizal fungi are very beneficial to most plants. They provide the root systems with nutrients and water, which ultimately helps them to grow better. If a plant looks less than optimal or lacks vigor, it is always a good idea to give it some extra help. Mycorrhizae products are the solution for healthy and fast-growing plants.

By admin

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