Mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal Fungi: Getting to the Root of the Matter

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What are Mycorrhizal Fungi?

If I were to tell you that there was something that was the secret to many gardeners’ success, would you use it? In the hidden realms beneath our feet lies a network of fascinating organisms that quietly shape the environment around us. Among these unsung heroes are beneficial mycorrhizal fungi (M Fungi), often overlooked yet crucial players in the intricate dance of ecosystems. Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with the vast majority of plant species, facilitating nutrient exchange and fostering resilience in the face of environmental challenges. In this blog post, we delve into the captivating world of M fungi, shedding light on their significance and the wonders they bestow upon the natural world.

Mycorrhizal fungi, derived from the Greek words “myco” meaning fungus and “rhiza” meaning root, are a diverse group of fungi that form mutualistic associations with the roots of plants. This symbiotic relationship, dating back millions of years, is a testament to the remarkable interconnectivity of life on Earth. There are two primary types of mycorrhizae: ectomycorrhizae, which envelop the root tips of trees and shrubs, and endomycorrhizae (or arbuscular mycorrhizae), which penetrate the cells of the plant roots themselves.

What it Does

One of the most crucial roles of M fungi is facilitating nutrient exchange between plants and soil. Through their extensive network of hyphae, these fungi can access nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and water that may be otherwise inaccessible to the plant. In return, the plant provides the fungi with carbohydrates produced through photosynthesis, creating a mutually beneficial exchange known as the “mycorrhizal network.”

Beyond nutrient exchange, M fungi play a pivotal role in enhancing plant health and resilience. By extending the reach of plant roots and increasing nutrient uptake efficiency, these fungi help plants withstand stressors such as drought, disease, and nutrient deficiency. Studies have shown that mycorrhizal associations can significantly improve plant growth, crop yields, and overall ecosystem productivity, making them indispensable allies in agriculture and forestry.

The influence of M fungi extends far beyond individual plants, shaping entire ecosystems and influencing global biogeochemical cycles. In forests, these fungi form intricate networks that connect trees, facilitating communication and resource sharing among different species. This interconnectedness not only fosters biodiversity but also contributes to carbon sequestration and soil stability, playing a vital role in mitigating climate change.

Despite their ecological importance, M fungi face various threats, including habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. As we strive to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, it becomes imperative to recognize and conserve these often-overlooked organisms. Efforts to promote sustainable land management practices, protect natural habitats, and raise awareness about the importance of M fungi are essential steps toward preserving their invaluable contributions to the natural world.


In the intricate tapestry of life, M fungi stand as silent partners, weaving connections beneath the surface and nurturing the vitality of ecosystems worldwide. Their remarkable symbiotic relationships with plants exemplify the interconnectedness of all living organisms and underscore the importance of fostering harmony with the natural world. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of these enigmatic fungi, let us cultivate a deeper appreciation for their role in sustaining life on Earth and strive to ensure their preservation for generations to come.

Guess what? You can purchase your own mycorrhizal inoculant to augment the natural supply in the soil. Speak to many gardeners, and they will tell you they experience tremendous success when using inoculants.

How do You Add Mycorrhizal Fungi to Soil?

WOW Wallace Premium Mycorrhizal Inoculant is the best!

Adding M fungi to soil is a beneficial practice that can enhance soil health and plant growth. Here are several methods for incorporating mycorrhizal fungi powder and or granules into your soil:

Commercial inoculant products containing spores or propagules of M fungi are readily available. These products come in various forms such as powder, granular, or liquid. Follow the instructions provided on the packaging for application. Coating seeds with mycorrhizal inoculant before planting ensures that the young roots establish symbiosis with the fungi from the outset of growth. I have experienced excellent results using Wow Wallace Mycorrhizal Inoculant.

Apply mycorrhizal inoculant directly to the root system of seedlings or mature plants before transplanting them into the soil. This facilitates the quick establishment of symbiosis with the plant roots. You can also mix mycorrhizal inoculant with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and pour it around the base of plants for established gardens or existing plants.

Incorporate compost or organic matter containing M fungi into the soil during bed preparation or top-dress around existing plants. Apply mycorrhizal inoculant to mulch materials before spreading them over the soil surface. As the mulch breaks down, the fungi will colonize the soil and establish symbiotic relationships with plant roots.

Mix mycorrhizal inoculant with other soil amendments like compost, vermiculite, or perlite before incorporating them into the soil.

When adding M fungi to soil, ensure that environmental conditions such as moisture, soil pH, and temperature are suitable for their establishment and growth. Additionally, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides can help maintain a healthy mycorrhizal population in the soil, further promoting plant health and ecosystem resilience.

How do You Get Mycorrhizal Fungi Naturally?

To obtain mycorrhizal fungi naturally, you can employ several methods that encourage their growth and establishment in the soil.

Establishing Diverse Plant Communities: Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with the roots of numerous plant species. By cultivating a diverse array of plants native to your region, you create an environment that naturally attracts and supports various M fungi species.

Minimizing Soil Disturbance: Excessive soil disturbance, such as frequent tillage, disrupts the intricate networks of mycorrhizal hyphae. Minimize disturbance to the soil to preserve these networks, allowing mycorrhizal associations to flourish without interruption.

Maintaining Organic Matter: Organic matter serves as a vital source of nutrients and habitat for M fungi. Incorporating compost, leaf litter, and other organic materials into the soil provides a rich substrate for fungal growth, supporting their proliferation and activity.

Providing Adequate Moisture and Drainage: Mycorrhizal fungi thrive in moist yet well-drained soil conditions. Ensure proper soil moisture levels without allowing the soil to become waterlogged, as excess water can inhibit fungal growth. Mulching helps regulate soil moisture and creates a favorable habitat for M fungi.

Encouraging Soil Biodiversity: Mycorrhizal fungi interact with a diverse range of soil microorganisms, including bacteria and other fungi. Promote soil biodiversity by incorporating beneficial microbes through practices like composting and vermicomposting. Healthy soil ecosystems support robust mycorrhizal populations, enhancing overall soil fertility.

Fostering Plant-Mycorrhizal Interactions: Some plant species release root exudates that attract M fungi and stimulate their growth. Choose plant species known to form strong mycorrhizal associations and provide optimal growing conditions to encourage these interactions.

By incorporating these natural methods into your gardening practices, you create an environment that supports the growth and proliferation of M fungi. Over time, these beneficial organisms will establish symbiotic relationships with plant roots, contributing to improved nutrient uptake, soil structure, and overall ecosystem health.

What Plants Need Mycorrhizal Fungi?

Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with the roots of the vast majority of plant species, including trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, and crops. While not all plants require mycorrhizal associations to thrive, many benefit significantly from these symbiotic relationships.

It’s important to note that while mycorrhizal associations benefit a wide range of plants, the degree of dependence varies among species. Some plants may thrive without mycorrhizal fungi in certain conditions, while others show significantly improved growth, nutrient uptake, and resilience when these symbiotic relationships are established. Overall, mycorrhizal fungi play a crucial role in supporting plant health, ecosystem functioning, and soil fertility across diverse habitats and plant communities.

Further Reading

I really like Teaming with Nutrients by Jeff Lowenfels. It is filled with organic gardening information and does a good job on fungi. I discuss M Fungi in two of my books: Backyard Big: Growing Atlantic Giant Pumpkins in Your Backyard, and Backyard Big: Growing Food in Your Backyard. For other gardening topics, be sure to check out my Garden Blog.

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