The creature most often missing in agricultural soils is a fungus that burrows into the crop roots, but this is not a disease organism. Once this creature is locked into a food source from the plant, it gives far more than it receives. This generous life force is called Mycorrhizal fungi and it has become an unfortunate casualty of extractive agriculture.
There are two forms of Mycorrhizal fungi, one that surrounds the plant roots and another that physically attaches to the roots. In both cases they harvest sugar exudates from the plant. AM create structures within root cells called arbuscules that facilitate the transfer of nutrients between the plant and the fungus. It is now acknowledged that these compromised creatures may be the single
most important tool available to reverse global warming as they produce a substance called glomalin. In 1996, a researcher called Sara F. Wright, discovered glomalin, a sticky substance produced by mycorrhizal fungi that generates stable humus in the soil.
This remarkable material permeates organic matter, binding it to silt, sand and clay particles in the soil. The substance itself contains 40% carbon but it also creates aggregates that stabilize carbon in the soil and prevent its return to the atmosphere as part of the carbon cycle.
Reducing The Fertiliser Bill
While humus building is obviously important , there are many other benefits associated with increasing the number of AM fungi in your soils. One of these relates to the potential to reduce the ever‐increasing fertiliser bill. We are currently experiencing another escalation in the prices of NPK fertilisers with an increase in the price of DAP/MAP of over 25% in just six months. We have already reached “Peak” phosphorous and potassium is not far behind.
The key strategy for farmers, in the face of this blowout in production costs, is to reduce reliance upon these inputs and to increase their efficiency. AM fungi can provide the key as they effectively enable the recovery of past investments. The ten‐fold increase in root surface area provided by AMF allows exploitation of a much larger root volume and the uptake of all minerals is enhanced.
However, it is phosphorous that receives the most profound kick along. This mineral is notoriously unstable and it is suggested that over 70% of all applied soluble phosphate becomes locked up in an insoluble form within weeks. It has been estimated that over ten billion dollars of this frozen reserve remains frozen in Australian agricultural soils. The key to accessing this treasure is AM fungi.
Many studies have reported increased P uptake and associated improvements in early growth and reproduction following inoculation with Mycorrhizal fungi. The maze of pipe‐like filaments seeks out this immobile mineral and the acidic exudates of the fungi solubilise locked up P and absorb the mineral for transportation back to the plant.
AMF and Free Nitrogen
Several recent studies have shown that both major forms of nitrogen‐fixing organisms in the soil improve their performance in the presence of Mycorrhizal fungi. These two groups include Rhizobium bacteria that are housed in the nodules attached to the roots of all legumes, and free‐living bacteria that surround plant roots to access sugar exudates.
These creatures convert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere into ammonium nitrogen in the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi are the perfect partners for nitrogen fixing organisms. These creatures need an ongoing supply of phosphorus to fuel the nitrogenase enzyme responsible for converting the nitrogen gas in the atmosphere into a plant food. In return, the nitrogen fixers supply nitrogen to build the protein required to create that massive maze of hyphae beneath the plant. If you can get both of these creatures firing there will be a smile on your face because you have seriously reduced your requirement for two of the most expensive fertilizer inputs.
But There’s Still More
The benefits we have highlighted are substantial and should be of appeal to all primary producers however, there are still more gains to increasing AMF colonisation in your crop.
In 1994, Marschner and Dell found that AMF inoculated plants contained significantly higher levels of calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron. In 1999, Alkarati and Clarke repeated those findings.
In 1995, Mathur and Vyas showed that AMF fungi increased photosynthesis by increasing total chlorophyll and carrotenoid content. This resulted in increased carbohydrate accumulation and a higher brix level. Every good biological grower knows that if they can increase brix levels there is a consequent increase in yield, quality and resilience. AM fungi are the secret to building brix levels!
NUTRI LIFE PLATFORM
NTS PLATFORM a combination of Mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial plant growth promoting microbes for improved root sytsem development and increased phosphate uptake.
For more information on AM Fungi contact Bio-Tech Organics on 83808554 or John Norton on 0412305158