Saturday, July 30, 2016

By Judith Fitzpatrick

How do you help us?
Let me count the ways
Your carbon nitrogen and phosphorus
Are perfectly balanced plant buffets 
Your sticky glue gives soil structure
Eliminating erosion freeways
Structure also retains moisture
Cutting down on water outlays  
You are a standing army
Defeating pathogenic forays
And when summer’s orgy ends
Your fungal units start decay
And you store this harvest
Safe and sound ‘til next May
You are the sharpest foragers
Gleaning nutrients from clay

That plants can only get from you. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ectomycorrhizal fungi allow plants that are associated with them to overcome nitrogen poor soil conditions.  This article was in 1 July Science.  The authors were trying to determine if a shortage of nitrogen would inhibit the enhanced growth of plants due to increasing CO2 concentrations -- one great hope is that plants can help us remediate the increase in CO2.  They found that plants with these fungi increased soil biomass by 30% and they did not require nitrogen to be added.  Plants that did not have these fungi and were in nitrogen poor soil required added nitrogen to utilize higher CO2 -- even with added nitrogen they got less growth under higher CO2 levels.  So these fungi really facilitate fertilization of the plant by soil nitrogen and added fertilizer.

Ectomycorrhizal fungi are the fungi that attache themselves to the roots of plants and are symbiotic with them.  The plant feeds the fungi and the fungi brings water and nutrients to the plant.  They are more common in temperate zones where over 90% of plants are colonized by these fungi.