Mycorrhizal fungi are beneficial to plants as part of a symbiotic relationship with roots that greatly benefits both the fungus and the plant alike.
Nearly all plant life is dependent on the mycorrhizal association which it is believed began some 460 million years ago and is credited with enabling life to move from water to land.
Mycorrhizae fungi grow through the soil by means of hyphae, which are the “roots” of the fungus. These “roots” are extremely filamentous and explore every tiny crack and cranny in the soil to absorb water and nutrients in solution; and, give this solution to the roots of the plant. For this service, about 15% of the foods converted by the plant from the energy of the sun are given to the mycorrhizae fungi as its only food source. This mutualistic relationship between plant roots and mycorrhizae fungi is an essential link between nearly all plants and their soil environment. Should this food flow from the roots to the fungi be interrupted in any way – the fungi responds accordingly.
Regardless of the cause, i.e., drought, high salt, parasites, negative organisms, etc., mycorrhizae has evolved to protect their food source – the plant. Mycorrhizae fungi are a natural phenomenon – it is a natural and essential part of a complete plant system of the fungus.
The full story of the effect mycorrhizal roots have on plants is still evolving. To date, we know that some plants cannot live without mycorrhizal roots. We also know there are a few well-known plants that do not need mycorrhizae: like broccoli, brussels, and cabbage.
The reason we should inoculate plants is that standard agricultural, nursery and landscape practices have largely ignored what’s going on below the ground and focused on the plant above the ground. Formal agriculture and horticulture classes have given limited attention to the topic of mycorrhizae – but this is changing rapidly – today it is estimated there are thousands of research studies ongoing on the subject. The real energy that is pushing the topic of mycorrhizae to center stage is the success it is now showing in commercial applications.
Commercially speaking, our focus in the nursery industry has been on top growth, beauty and quantity. Because of the pressure, the typical nurseryman has to turn inventory with little, if any attention, given to the natural health of the plant. Today, the nursery industry produces plants that look good, but are not naturally complete. To turn inventories and remain competitive, the nurserymen uses a host of chemical and water management techniques to manipulate plants to grow fast and look good. Plants are quite literally grown in a bubble (the greenhouse) and do not develop many of the natural systems they evolved with and must have in the real world (the landscape) to thrive and prosper. As a consequence, much of nursery stock sold is relatively fragile and can quickly die if not maintained intensively. Thus, much of the reason for so called transplant shock.
Most will agree that we could use some help for better results with newly planted landscapes which always experience some degree of transplant shock. Generally, the reason is poor after care; but heat, time of the year, soil conditions, along with untold other factors also play important roles here. One of the biggest problems is most transplanted plants have little, if any, natural systems working for them and the soils they are planted in likely offers little help from a microbial standpoint because it has often been moved around, compacted, and disturbed (grading, fill, etc.) and generally has little, if any, beneficial microbial life.
Inoculating plant roots with beneficial mycorrhiza significantly aids all transplants including trees, shrubs and flower bed results; and even vegetables and forest seedlings, especially under adverse conditions. Today, we know that mycorrhizal roots take hold faster – there is little doubt on this fact. Furthermore, we know mycorrhizae and beneficial microbial activity in the soil make sound horticultural sense resulting in better plant health.
Research has shown for several decades that mycorrhizal roots improve establishment, nutrient uptake, hardiness and drought resistance, offering reduced fertilizer and fungicide inputs, and increased plant disease tolerance. Recent research is showing that mycorrhizal roots can thrive in high salt environments which have in recent time become more and more prevalent because of severe problems associated with salt water intrusion.
Now we are beginning to take serious the natural systems which have been ignored for many decades.We have these perfect systems available to us, but have instead employed billions of dollars in chemicals to control growth and predators. Now is the time to look at the natural systems that lie below our feet – the soil flora, and especially, mycorrhizae.
So, how can we treat plants with mycorrhizae? The proven methods include root dips, soil amendments, drenches, root injection and vertimulching. Instead of a single minded approach, consider a Natural approach which includes a host of beneficials naturally reserved for healthy ground and roots – complex compounds of fungi, bacteria, minor nutrients, water holding elements, organic matter, and minerals.
What do we treat the plants with? If this approach makes sense lets consider a cocktail for plants coming out of nurseries or starting up in disturbed ground. Instead of a simplistic approach (chemical) lets use a systems approach (natural systems, that is). In fact, forget the cocktail, lets give the transplant a banquet:
All are university proven, commercialized, contractor proven, and inexpensive – each loaded with benefit for the plant and soil environment. Especially when transplanting, a world of difference is available which provides dramatic results in establishment.
DIEHARD™ mycorrhizal inoculants are formulated as transplant soil amendments, injectables, and bare root preparations to inoculate landscape trees and shrubs, flower beds, established trees and shrubs, and bare root seedlings with live beneficial mycorrhizae fungi. The Inoculant contains highly selected strains of low host specificity endo- and ectomycorrhizae fungi that will quickly colonize the roots of new transplants to provide the best possible conditions for the roots to become mycorrhizal during the establishment period and beyond. The mycorrhizal inoculants are combined with humic acids, stimulants, beneficial bacteria, soluble sea kelp, yucca plant extracts and organic soil conditioners to promote rapid root development, to reduce transplant stress and watering maintenance; and, to slow release all soluble components of the formulation.
Horta-Sorb® water management gels are added to complete the package.
DIEHARD™ Inoculants, including all the other families of growth-promoting ingredients, are an investment that can return its cost several times over in a number of ways. Just think how you would feel about your projects when you have all the goodies “Mother Nature” has to offer working for you. Stressed plant materials are the norm when transplanting. Give them all we’ve got when we transplant – it’s the right thing to do. It’s the responsible thing to do to achieve sustainable production for plants and the environment.