Mycorrhizal Fungi: A Bright Decision For Beginners in Organic Gardening
Here’s the short version of this whole article, in case you’re running out of time and already know enough about mycorrhizal fungi: in organic gardening, you don’t have to work alone. In fact, you don’t even have to do most of the work yourself. While in inorganic farming systems the soil is fundamentally an inert thing, which the farmer has to till, water, fertilize and hold together so the plants can begin to use it, in organic gardening systems the soil is a living being (more accurately, an ecosystem of living beings behaving in syntony), able to retain aeration, humidity, nutrients and structure. All of this happens because of an enormous variety of creatures: worms, ants, a myriad of other insects, bacteria, and, amongst hundreds of other beings, mycorrhizal fungi.
Now, onwards to the details:
- Mycorrhizal fungi are basically fungi that get entangled in the roots of plants, but that don’t harm them. Instead, they actually benefit them by expanding the range of soil to which they already have access, because they become part of the root system itself.
- It’s a bit as if there was a kind of tick that, instead of sucking blood from you, would actually serve to help you digest your food. It is, in fact, even more similar to our own intestinal microbiota, the many bacteria in our gut that helps us digest our food better. Here’s a comparison of roots without and with mycorrhizal fungi, because an image is worth a thousand words:
On the left, you can see a turf of grass with roots colonized by mycorrhizal fungi; on the right, a turf of grass with roots that are not colonized by these fungi. The fungi here appear only in the form of mycelium, by the way: the mushroom caps that we often see are actually just the fruit of the fungi! Here (here!) you can find more about these little creatures, in case you’re interested.
So, basically, these fungi serve as extensions of your plant’s roots, and as such they are incredibly useful in allowing them to reach deeper and wider into the soil, and absorb nutrients and water better. The only problem with these small folks is that they are not everywhere, and they are certainly not everywhere in the amount necessary to make an impact in your plant’s health and growth. In order to amend this, organic growers strive to provide for the fungi a soil that is rich enough in organic matter to sustain a wide variety of fungal growth, and amongst it some mycorrhizal fungi, but this can sometimes not be enough if they’re not already present in the soil in sufficient amounts.
That is why it can be incredibly useful to include mycorrhizal fungi products in the preparation of a first garden spot, or even in a well-established organic garden. Mycorrhizal fungi products (such as fertilizer that includes mycorrhiza, inoculated soil from gardens that already teem with mycorrhizal fungi, mycorrhiza powder and even mycorrhizal fungi tablets!) are absolutely effective in giving your garden a first boost, and, as with every beneficial thing that you bring into your soil, definitely worth the price considering that they are becoming a permanent improvement to your garden; one that you’ll keep enjoying for years to come, with the aid of the right conservation and organic practices, of course. There is a wide variety of products to choose from; some more and some less suitable to your particular conditions, but all of them impactful (and specially ours, modesty apart). Help your soil reach its fullest potential, and test for yourself why investing in mycorrhizal fungi is a bright decision for beginners in organic gardening!