Mycorrhizae are a special type of fungi that is found in various locations across the globe. But you are likely still asking what are mycorrhizae fungi specifically?
The most notable aspect with respect to this type of fungi is that it is known to attach itself to plants and afterwards establish a symbiotic relationship.
"A symbiotic relationship within the biological context is a relationship between two organisms that is mutually beneficial in nature" - This implies that both organisms derive some sort of biological benefit from this type of relationship.
With respect to the symbiotic relationship between Mycorrhizae and the plant, the fungi get to derive nutrients from the plant while the plant benefits from having its nutrient absorption capacity enhanced by the mycorrhizae.
More precisely, Mycorrhizae has hyphae like roots that attach to the roots of the plant and extend to other areas into the soil thus enabling the plant to absorb nutrients from other areas that are not directly within its vicinity.
The overall effect of the relationship to the plant is to enable it absorb more nutrients and water from the soil thus ensuring that it is much healthier and productive.
Mycorrhizae are thought to have played a very crucial role in facilitating the distribution of plant species across the globe. This is because, scientific evidence reveals that these type of fungi have been in existence for more than 400 million years and throughout this period, the fungi have played a significant role in enhancing the survival of various species of plants ultimately ensuring that they are able to survive despite any unfavorable environmental conditions that they could have been subjected to. This has therefore enhanced the ability of such plants to survive and be carried from one generation of human beings to another thus underscoring the overall importance of the fungi in the global food chain
There are several categories of fungi that are based on the some of the specific characteristics of the mycorrhizae
Mycorrhizal fungi can be divided into two categories based on the behaviour of their hyphen and these categories are ectomycorrhizal vs endomycorrhizal.
Ectomycorrhizal refers to those fungi that feature hyphae that do not get into the surface of the cell membrane.
While the second type of mycorrhizae that is endomycorrhizal is able to penetrate the roots and get into the cell membrane. Forming sites of exchange with the plant called arbusculars.
Another special category of mycorrhizae are the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.
This type of fungi features a special attribute in that it is capable of getting inside the root membrane through the cortial cells. This specific attribute makes the fungi to be much more effective with respect to its ability to absorb nutrients that can in turn be utilized by the plants.
Some of the key nutrients that can be absorbed by the arbuscular mycorrhizae include sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients are indispensable when it comes to the overall growth and development of the plant.
Most of the plants that associated with this type of fungi are vascular plants that feed the fungi and in turn, depend on the arbuscular mycorrhizae for water and nutrition.
They are several benefits associated with mycorrhizal fungi and some of them have actually already been alluded to. One of the most notable benefits is of course the fact that the fungi improve the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and water from the soil. This is an important benefit with respect to mycorrhizal products since it results to healthier plants. Secondly, mycorrhizal products also facilitate faster plant growth. This is on account of increased nutrient uptake that makes it possible for the plant to grow in a much faster rate than normal and this is especially important when it comes to plants that offer some sort of nutritive or commercial value.
Mycorrhizal products also offer several benefits that relate to the soil that offers support for plant growth and development. First and foremost, mycorrhizae serve to improve the structure and porosity of the soil. This is because, as the hyphae of the fungi extends into the soil, it breaks down the soil particles into finer and well structured particles translating to improved structure and porosity. Furthermore, the fungi are also important when it comes to enhancing the ecosystem existing between the soil and the plant.
Commercial production of plants is also another area that derives significant benefits from mycorrhizal products. Precisely, mycorrhizae substantially increase the plants ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. This therefore implies that the farmer will not have to spend so much on fertilizer that is meant to increase to supplements the nutrients available to the plants. Furthermore, the amount of water that might be required for irrigation might also be reduced since the plant will have a higher capacity to absorb water from the soil. Ultimately, the amount of resources required in terms of water and fertilizer is significantly reduced due to the presence of mycorrhizal products and this translates to an overall reduction in the cost of production.
It is important to have an understanding of the mechanism behind the distribution of nutrients and water resources by the mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi use a special type of network referred to as the mycorrhizal networks. The network essentially consists of a collection of hyphae that stem out from the fungi. These hyphae link different plants together and make it possible for the fungi to absorb water and nutrients from the soil and directly share the same with the plants. The rate of absorption is therefore dependent on the intensity of the mycorrhizal network. Dense networks are considered ideal since they feature many hyphae that transport higher amounts of water and nutrients from the soil into the plants.
Mycorrhizal fungi benefit the plant by increasing water and nutrient uptake but it is equally important to note that the fungi actually produces a special type of nutrient that is needed by the plant. Precisely, the fungi produce a special type of protein known as glomalin. Glomalin is produced by the hyphae of the mycorrhizae and ensures that the plant is able to access an important nutrient that is needed for overall growth and development. It is also important to point out that the protein rich glomalin is absorbed by the soil and this implies that the soil will continue to retain the nutrient even after the life cycle of the fungi has ended. The plant will therefore be in a position to access the nutrients contained in the soil and this is the reason why mycorrhizae is important not just in enhancing the nutrient uptake by the plants but also when it comes to enhancing the nutritive value of the soil.