When I started delving into this wonderful world of mycelium; it all sort of seemed pretty straight forward; no it is anything but; science and technology with the aid of electron microscopes now allow us to peep into a whole new world and its special thanks to Kathryn Morris whom I have referred to in previous articles for the tireless work she has devoted to this cause and affect of mycelium; Up to say 20 years ago it was treated as a singular organisium; there just to breakdown organic material; now we are understanding the complexity of this in a completely different light, Plants don’t just sit there and grow; they are connected to a neuronal network of fungal that can not only help their neighbours by sharing nutrients and information; even the reverse they can sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals through the net work; but 90% of plants actually benefit by this relationships with fungi; Where does this benifit the plant?It helps the plant to suck up water; provides nutrients such as phosph orus and nitrogen via their mycelia [I use the word their as all mycelium will differ anatomically from plant to plant as mutation over millions of years would have adjusted the relationship] On the health side of the plant; the fungal system boosts the host plants immune systems this is done when the fungus colonises the roots of the plants; it triggers the production of defense related chemicals; this quickly aids the plant to become more resistant to disease.A Chinese scientist did a trial using tomatos in containers some had mycelium and once the mycilium in these containers had developed the leaves on one plant was sprayed with alternaria solani; a fungus that causes early blight disease; air tight plastic bags; [yes they do have some use””]were used to prevent any above ground chemical signalling between plants; after 65 hours they tried to infect the the second plant in each pair; they found they were much less likely to get blight; and had much lower levels of damage when they did; if they had mycelia; now if we start to collate Suzannes Simards first pieces of evidence that large trees help out small; younger ones using the fungal internet on the basis that seedlings in the shade would be short on food got more carbon from donor trees; which opens up the possibility that this distribution of carbon is not only for the same species but is assisting other species to survive; which from where I stand and others puts a large dent in the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest and that a better assumption is would be plants have always evolved together and they have something beneficial to offer each other; so they are definitely interacting with each other trying to help each other to survive, Also other research discovered found that broad bean seedlings use fungal networks to pick up on impending threats such as hungry aphids; The test showed found the broad been seedlings that were not themselves under attack by aphids; but were connected to those that were via fungal mycelia; activated their anti aphid chemical defences; those without mycelia did not; so one has to conclude some form of signalling was going on between plants about herbivory by aphids; and those signals were being transported through mycorrhizal mycelia networks; sounds very complicated and it is because it is some times difficult to differentiate what is the trigger that sets all of this into motion;is it invirimental; is it pheromones from other organisms or is the information stored in the mycelium acting before the impending danger or when it arrives? Much to ponder on; so lets keep digging on what we have established ; plants such as orchids who don’t get much if any photosynthesis get their carbon the need from nearby trees ; the mycelia of fungi that both are connected to. Even the ones that can photosynthesis will steal carbon from other plants using the fungal network that links them [Even in the plant world we have stealing; one wonders if if they have a judge and jury made up of different plants; that would interesting; Ground Detention; teaspoon of glysophate???} back to earth on the negative side plants have to compete neighbours for resources such as water and light; and as part of that battle some release chemicals that harm rivals. We have ‘allelopathy’ it pertains to trees that release substances that either reduce the chances of other plants becoming established nearby; or reduce the spread of microbes around their roots; another example is the American black walnut tree, it inhibits the growth of many plants including potatoes; cucumbers by releasing a chemical called jugalone from its leaves and roots; but back to the main topic of mycelium; Do we need it? We certainly do for so many reasons which would fill a thousand pages and what we should all consider is how we can extrapolate all the beneficial things to grow healthy strong producing crops free of disease instead of constantly putting chemicals on to crops to do something which is not natural and to enlarge the danger of a lot of this ;here is is example common seawater is loaded with sodium chloride [salt] and if you drink a few glasses of it usually fatal; now it is not the salt that does the damage is the many other atoms that cling to the sodium atoms; this doesn’t affect marine animals as their evolution has adjusted for it; back to where this heading; when we start throwing chemical at plants; the same can apply where certain atoms attach themselves to other atoms that make up the atomic structure of plants could possibly have the same affect; true we throw on magnesium on plants to minimise jaundice in plants; we throw on high concentrations of nitrogen to stimulate rapid growth; phosphates and dozens more and that is fine; but do we always get the result we are expecting;? Not all the time; a lot is pure chance and as we have a myriad of atom structures with in the soil itself only complicates it still further; okay when they are in a stable state but when billions are flying around as all atoms do; none of us know exactly what these cocktails finish up as; because some will do exactly what the atoms in sodium do and become harmful and enter the food chain; okay a very slim chance but we are told by chemical companies that they have thoroughly tested this and its fine but unlucky for them science is making great inroads into putting the pieces of the puzzle togetherand the Monsanto;s of the world and many other chemical companies are now being questioned on the validity of their statements; we all worry about lunatics with arsenals of nuclear warheads but I consider the absurd use of some of the above far more dangerous; No I am not in the greeny brigade; one must have some some sort of consensus ‘balance; and get to the truth of any problems with out a smoke screen; unfortunately we are only scratching the surface of the brilliant intelligence of plants so we have a wee way to go in fact we have a long way to go; may be there is a heaven but it is under the ground where some of the very fabric of life started to evolve that would be more exciting than floating around the clouds playing violins or bagpipes . Confused? Just treat it as a normal and watch one session of parliament and you will see real confusion.
Copyright © Field Horticulture