When broken down, the term "mycorrhiza" literally means "fungus-root." Mycorrhizal mushrooms are a type of helpful mushrooms that are dependent on plant roots to survive.
But the relationship mycorrhizal mushrooms provide is beyond survival purposes. Together, they create a mutualistic connection that supplies the host plant with exceptional advantages. One of which is improved nutrient uptake. This article will further explain mycorrhizal mushrooms and how they affect our understanding of mushroom cultivation.
What does a Mycorrhizal Mushroom Mean?
Mycorrhiza, which literally translates as "fungus-root," refers to the beneficial partnership between the plant and the root fungus. These specialist fungi penetrate deep into the earth and symbiotically inhabit plant roots. As authentic extensions of root systems, mycorrhizal fungal filaments in the soil are more efficient at absorbing nutrients and water than the roots themselves.
Over the past several hundred million years, symbiotic relationships have evolved between beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and more than 95% of terrestrial plant species. These fungi existed before terrestrial plants evolved. Their collaboration with mycorrhizal fungi allowed plants to spread across dry ground and give rise to life as we know it today.
The critical component of the mycorrhizal symbiotic relationship is the plant's capacity to produce carbohydrates via photosynthesis and share some of these sugars with the fungus in exchange for nutrients and water. The mentioned factors are unavailable and obtained from the soil or growing medium by the fungus' extensive network of mycelial hyphae.
It is a traditional symbiotic mutualism since two species exchange resources in a two-way connection. The plant is necessary for the endomycorrhizal fungi to exist, and the fungus helps the plant perform better and survive.
How does a Mycorrhizal Relationship Work?
There are three main ways that mycorrhizal fungi can inoculate in order to colonize plants. These are spores, colonized root fragments, and vegetative hyphae. Propagules, the conventional unit of measurement indicated on most commercially available mycorrhizal products, collectively refer to these mycorrhizal fungi inoculants.
These propagules must be present in the substrate and close to actively growing roots of a suitable plant to colonize plant roots. As they push through the substrate, the expanding root tips release root exudates, which alert the fungi to colonize the roots and create symbiosis.
As long as the mycelia continue to expand along with the plant's root system and new spores and hyphae are produced, the process is self-sustaining once the roots have been colonized.
Mycorrhizae are symbiotic partnerships or relationships that benefit both fungi and plants.
Although the fungi infect the roots of the plant to take nutrients, they also offer some advantages, which I outlined below:
- Increasing the likelihood that the plant may survive challenging circumstances like drought or high temperatures
- Locating and obtaining nutrients that are difficult to obtain, such as organic nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron
- Extending the tree's roots and expanding the region that can absorb moisture and nutrients
- Releasing calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc using fungi's enzymes so that plants may utilize them
- Supplying additional nutrients in the winter, when there is less sunlight and less photosynthesis
- Establishing mycelial networks between trees so they can communicate chemically and exchange nutrients
- Defending the plant's roots against pathogenic bacteria and other creatures
Despite their significance and the advantages they provide, mycorrhizae are delicate and readily harmed. Chemicals used in agriculture can instantly kill them. Additionally, mechanical disturbance, such as that caused by tilling, rips up their delicate, lacy underground web, cutting off the connections to the plants for which they are so beneficial.
What are the Different Types of Mycorrhizal Mushrooms?
There are two ways that mycorrhizae actually attach to plants. One type referred known as ectomycorrhizae, merely encircles the roots' surface. Another type, known as endomycorrhizal, develops inside the plant. Here the hyphae cram themselves between the root cell wall and cell membranes.
- Around 85% of plant families have symbiotic connections with these mushrooms.
- The majority of commercially grown plants, including leafy, green, and fruiting or blooming plants, combine well with the mushrooms.
- In the cells of the root cortex, endomycorrhizal mushrooms create structures for nutrition exchange.
- About 10% of plant families have symbiotic connections with this variety of mushrooms.
- Several American hardwoods and conifers are typical pairings for these mushrooms.
- In contrast to endomycorrhizal mushrooms, ectomycorrhizal fungi surround the root instead of penetrating its cell walls and creating a "Hartig net" of nutrient exchange structures.
- Common mycorrhizal mushroom species include amanitas, boletes, chanterelles, and the highly sought-after truffles.
Do Mycorrhizal Fungi always Produce Mushrooms?
Not all mycorrhizal fungi produce mushrooms, although some do. Those that do frequently develop relationships with thick trees and bushes.
Ectomycorrhizae and endomycorrhizae are the two primary categories of mycorrhizae.
Typical mushrooms are not produced by the types of fungus that develop endomycorrhizal connections inside the cells of many plant roots.
Formed by higher fungi, ectomycorrhizal connections are the source of edible mushrooms and truffles.
The mycelium creates an exterior sheath over the root's surface in ectomycorrhizal interactions.
The mycelium spreads from the roots into the surrounding soil for moisture and organic materials.
Mycorrhizal fungi are essential to forest ecosystems to increase a plant or tree's root system by a thousandfold. They are necessary for many plants to get the nutrients they require.
Can You Grow Mycorrhizal Mushrooms?
Mycorrhizal mushrooms are challenging to grow because of their complicated life cycles and dependence on particular host plants. As a result, they are a rare find and are frequently only available in the wild during specific seasons.
What Mushrooms are Classified as Mycorrhizal?
The main chanterelle species of interest on the market is the golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius). The funnel-shaped cap of this yellow-to-orange-colored mushroom contains ridges rather than gills on the underside.
Chanterelles naturally grow beside various softwood and hardwood trees in Eastern North America, California, and the Pacific Northwest. Despite not having the same market value as truffles, chanterelles can fetch a premium price nevertheless.
Chanterelles not only need a mycorrhizal connection with a host tree, but they also have a remarkable interdependence on other microorganisms that actively grow with the fungal tissues of the mushroom. These added mutualistic relationships have made artificial cultivation efforts more difficult.
Nevertheless, after eight years of study, the golden chanterelle made its debut in 1997 in a greenhouse along with a potted Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). However, the subsequent attempts to expand on this achievement and produce the mushroom commercially have failed. It is probably due to the necessary intricate and labor-intensive production techniques.
Morel mushrooms were once believed to be an exclusive
Saprobes consume decaying and dead organic materials.
Mycologists currently, however, think that at least some species are capable of developing mycorrhizal connections with living trees. This might be one of the factors contributing to some morels' well-known difficulty in cultivation.
The development of sclerotia, which morel mushrooms use to tolerate harsh environments, is another challenge to cultivation. These sclerotia develop new mycelia or fungus fruiting structures in the spring. The challenge is to induce sclerotia to produce fruiting bodies rather than mycelia, which generate quickly.
For outdoor production, kits with morel spawn and instructions are provided. The kits, however, cannot be expected to provide commercial yields as they are designed for hobbyists. Although there have been no documented efficacy evaluations, the kits are typically
seen as being unreliable.
However, it could be conceivable to use a kit to grow a small backyard patch that would produce morels as a patch of nature. Choose the right location. Prepare your chosen site with favorable weather and enough protection from theft and wild animals.
If successful, the morels might be picked, dried, and sold all year round or at a nearby farmers market.
Porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis), also referred to as the King Bolete, are highly prized as gourmet mushrooms. The broad, club-shaped stipe (stem), which is relatively large in contrast to the cap, serves as the base for the light brown to reddish-brown cap. Instead of gills, the underside of the cap is covered in pores.
The roots of the trees are colonized and fed by the porcini mushrooms. Porcinis are adequate water and nutrient absorbers and reservoirs that they release to the roots as needed. They transform otherwise useless soil constituents and modify nitrogen levels to meet the requirements of the trees. They need fuel to carry out all of this labor and to procreate. Their photosynthesizing tree companions provide them with this fuel.
The matsutake has long been praised for its fragrant flavor in China and Japan. It has a very fresh and spicy aroma that adds a delicious, additional aromatic layer to the eating experience and is intensely meaty on the taste receptors. Matsutake is selective about its growing environment.
In Japan, it often exclusively flourishes among Japanese red pine trees (Pinus densiflora). Matsutake hunters also face the task of finding the mushrooms before other species, like rabbits, deer, and squirrels, do, as these creatures enjoy them just as much as people do. Another issue has been the fall in the population of Japanese red pine, which matsutake depend on, due to a pine nematode attacking it for the previous few decades.
Truffles are edible spores that develop on a subterranean fungus belonging to the Tuberaceae family. Although they are sometimes mistaken for mushrooms, truffles are officially a different species because they develop underground.
Despite having a modest look, certain truffle species have sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars per pound. The Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) and the Italian white truffle (Tuber magnatum) dominate the market as the most expensive truffle species.
The summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) is likewise endemic to Europe and is of low value. American native Oregon white truffles (Tuber oregonense and Tuber gibbosum). Canada and the Pacific Northwest are likewise becoming more popular in various markets. Pecan truffles (Tuber iyonii), which pecan producers once rejected, grow beside pecan trees in the southern United States.
How can Gardeners Take Advantage of Mycorrhizal Mushrooms?
Mycorrhizal interactions are beneficial for almost all plant species! For flowering and fruiting horticultural crops like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, cannabis, berries, fruit trees, and more, mycorrhizae's capacity to increase phosphorus bioavailability is essential.
Additionally, it will support the growth of both annual and perennial ornamental plants like flowers and shrubs. Mycorrhizae encourage more vigorous development in flowers, fruit, herbs, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, garlic, and onions.
In healthy, organic soil, mycorrhizae should naturally exist to some extent. All living species find the soil sterile and unfriendly due to harsh chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides. Organic gardening practices like compost, compost teas, cover crops, mulch, and no-till approaches promote a rich and diverse living soil food web.
However, especially in newly established gardens, it can take a while for a healthy population of mycorrhizal fungus to emerge in the typical residential garden. Additionally, the native fungus populations can radically change from one season or bed to the next. Therefore, inoculating your garden with mycorrhizae could be the most distinctive approach to ensure that your plants benefit from helpful fungus.
When moving fresh plants into the garden or a bigger container, one alternative is to immediately sprinkle granular mycorrhizae on the root ball or in the planting hole. After treatment and planting, thoroughly water the ground.
Mixing a water-soluble mycorrhizae product with soil and watering it in is another practical technique to introduce mycorrhizae to the soil. You can do this whenever you choose, whether shortly after transplanting or later to help established plants. If you plant seeds directly in your gardens, such as beans, peas, or garlic, wait to water them with mycorrhizae until they are at least a few weeks old and have grown a few sets of "genuine leaves"; by then, they will also have some roots.
Do mycorrhizal mushrooms hurt plants in any way?
Because mycorrhizae is not a fertilizer, it won't cause your plants to "burn" the way a high-nitrogen product might. Suppose the mycorrhizal mushrooms are beyond what was recommended to promote healthy associations with plant roots; the excess fungi will die.
The use of mycorrhizal products and biofertilizers may also include introducing potentially invasive species. These organisms, unfamiliar with the ecosystems in which they are used, must adapt to a new setting under various circumstances. Eventually, such a situation could threaten the plants we aim to grow.