Soil fungi are essential for optimum plant health. Mycorrhizal (Greek for “fungus roots”) fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots in which the fungi absorb water and nutrients and bring them to the plant. In return the plant provides exudates to feed the fungi. Exudates are chemicals secreted into the soil by roots. The chemical and biological interactions that occur between roots and their surrounding environment (i.e., the rhizosphere) are complex and not yet fully understood. We do know however, that over 90% of all plants form Mycorrhizae, and that plants do not achieve optimum growth without this root and fungi relationship.
There are three types of mycorrhizal fungi. Ectomycorrhizal fungi grow close to the root surface and form webs around the roots. These fungi are typically found among hardwoods and conifers. The second type are endomycorrhizal fungi. This type of fungi penetrates and grows inside of the root. Both of these fungi can dramatically increase the surface area of the root system, allowing the plant to absorb more water and nutrients. The third type are ectendomycorrhizal fungi. These are a hybrid of both ecto- and endomycorrhizae that are found in forests among the roots of alder, birch, and popular trees. When applying mycorrhizae to your plants it’s important to use the correct type. Most shrubs and perennials form mycorrhizae with endomycorrhizal fungi while conifers and hardwood trees benefit from ectomycorrhizal fungi.
How do I maximize the mycorrhizae in my garden soil?
Soil fungi are fragile and will be killed if the soil is rototilled, compacted, or treated with fungicides and pesticides. So the simple answer is, don’t rototill your soil. If your soil has been compacted by heavy machinery or winter snow, aerate it before planting. Aeration improves air circulation and drainage which improves conditions for mycorrihizae. Once aeration is complete, adding mycorrihizae will help speed up the recovery process. Guard and Grow root tea includes both mycorrihizae and organic fertilizer. Guard and Grow Root Tea will be especially effective when planting in soil that has been rototilled or otherwise damaged.