There is no doubt that mycorrhizae fungi play an important role in plant growth. They help aggregate the soil which in turn provides plant roots with better access to water and oxygen. Their symbiotic relationship with plants helps them access water and nutrients. It is only natural that companies want to sell these fungi to you. Don’t fall for it.
Mycorrhizal fungi (incorrectly called mycorrhiza) are found in all soil where plants grow. They form large networks of fine filamentous growth throughout the soil. They associate with plant roots; some even burrow into the roots to create an even greater association with plants. About 80% of all plant species form some type of association with these fungi.
Think of mycorrhizal fungi as a vast network of very fine plant roots. They are not plant roots, but they behave in similar ways to plant roots. They burrow into nooks and crannies in the soil and collect water and nutrients for the plants. In return the leaves of plants send sugars to the fungi as food. Given this important association it is natural for one to think that it would be beneficial to add more mycorrhizal fungi to the soil. For a more detailed description of mycorrhizal fungi, have a look at this publication by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott.
Facts About Mycorrhizae
- Garden soil already contains fast quantities of mycorrhizae, or at least it does if any kind of plants grow in it. Adding more is a waste of money, since they are already in your soil.
- Manufactured mycorrhizae consists of 2 or 3 types of fungi. It turns out that there are hundreds if not thousands of different kinds in your soil and some of these are very specific to certain types of plants. How do you know your plants will benefit from the 2 or 3 types you buy?
- Manufactured mycorrhizae are heat sensitive. If the container is left in a greenhouse, or a transport truck too long, the heat kills the fungi. There is no way for you to know that the product you buy contains active fungi – they could all be dead.
- Manufactured mycorrhizae are of a specific species, almost certainly from an area that is foreign to your soil. It is possible that these foreign species inhibit the growth of your native species. You have no way of knowing but it is never a good idea to import foreign species of any kind into your garden.
There is just no good reason to buy mycorrhizal fungi for your garden.
There are some special cases that might warrant the addition of mycorrhizal fungi.
Soil that has no plant growth probably has few natural fungi. It would seem that this would be a good case for adding them. The problem is that if the soil is not suitable for plant growth, it is probably not suitable for the growth of mycorrhizae. Adding them will simply result in them dying. If you want to grow plants in this soil you first need to solve the problem in the soil. As plants start to grow, native mycorrhizal fungi will also show up, naturally.
Sterile potting soil:
Sterile potting soil used in containers has no natural fungi. Studies have shown that adding mycorrhizal fungi to this type of environment can have some positive results. Keep in mind that the main value of the fungi is to provide the plants with water and nutrients. In a potted situation, many gardeners over water and over fertilize, negating the benefit of the fungi. If you water and feed your plants regularly, there is little benefit to adding mycorrhizal fungi.
1) Photo Source: Microbe World