Mycelium / Mycology


Under our feet, below the surface of the dirt, lies the hidden world of mycelium, stretching often for long distances, communicating, sensing our presence and movements, supporting and trading sustenance with plant life and trees, and producing wonderful mushrooms. I first discovered this hidden world when I read Paul Stamets' book, Mycelium Running (see references below). It has become one of my enthusiasms.

Quotes/Articles / References / Links / Beatrix Potter/ Soil Improvement


Mycorrhizae of Landscape Trees by David Sylvia et al... Mycorrhizal associations provide a linkage between tree roots and the soil, thereby contributing to the tolerance of trees to environmental stresses... Mycorrhizae are characterized by the movement of plant-produced carbon compounds to the fungus and fungal-acquired nutrients to the tree... The soilbome, or extramatrical, hyphae take up nutrients from the soil solution and transport them to the root (George et al. 1992). By this mechanism, mycorrhizae increase the effective absorptive surface area of a tree (O'Keefe and Sylvia 1991). As a result, mycorrhizal trees may have better establishment and greater tolerance of environmental stresses than nonmycorrhizal trees (Sylvia and Williams 1992)... cultural practices (e.g., high fertilization and pesticide use) may greatly reduce the number of mycorrhizal propagules in soil

Mycorrhizal Effects on Host Plant Physiology The word "Mycorrhiza" is given to a mutualistic association between a fungus (Myco) and the roots (rhiza) of the plants. This association is symbiotic because the relationship is advantageous for both organisms. The macrosymbiont (the plant) gains increased exploration of the soil (rhizo sphere) with the intricate net of hyphae that increases the uptake of water and nutrients from the soil interphase. The microsymbiont (the fungus) uses the carbon provided by the plant for its physiological functions, growth and development.

All About Improving Soil Fertility Research about trees transplanted from nurseries indicates that there is little benefit to fertilizing at the time of planting. Tree fertilization is not recommended on native soils as well because it is usually unnecessary. Conifers rarely need fertilization at all, since most conifers do well in low-nutrient soils...

Glossary of Mycological Terms useful for reading the following materials.

Mycorrhiza Mycorrhizas are commonly divided into ectomycorrhizas and endomycorrhizas. The two types are differentiated by the fact that the hyphae of ectomycorrhizal fungi do not penetrate individual cells within the root, while the hyphae of endomycorrhizal fungi penetrate the cell wall and invaginate the cell membrane.... Ectomycorrhizas, or EcM... An individual tree may have 15 or more different fungal EcM partners at one time

Thesis: TWO-YEAR PERFORMANCE OF HYBRID AND PURE AMERICAN CHESTNUT CASTANEA DENTATA (FAGACEAE) SEEDLINGS AND BENEFIT OF PISOLITHUS TINCTORIUS (SCLERODERMATACEAE) ON EASTERN OHIO MINE SPOIL by ROBERT V. HERENDEEN. We recommend that bareroot hybrid seedlings be inoculated with vegetative mycelial Pt at the nursery, treated with Terrasorb®... As early as the 1920’s the USDA recognized that trees, when established, promote hydrologic balance and soil stability while providing wildlife habitat and inhibiting invasive species (Zeleznik and Skousen 1996)... and Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.), (ODNR Mineral Resources Management 2001),... Mycorrhizal inoculation has also proven beneficial in helping trees cope with the adverse physical properties...

* MYCORRHIZAL ASSOCIATIONS: The Web Resource...Section 5. ECTOMYCORRHIZAS

Latin binomialFamilyCommon Name
Taxodium mucronatumPinaceaeMontezuma cypress

...formed mycorrhizae of the arbuscular type. We did, however, sample 5 species that are in plant families dominated by ectomycorrhizae... In contrast, Taxodium mucronatum was colonized by AM fungi in both containers and in raised beds.

Observations of Mycorrhizal Inoculation of Pin and Scarlet Oak Production In Containers by Thomas P. Martin. "Over the course of the last century mycorrhizal symbiosis has come to be recognized as highly beneficial for the host plant. Increased growth, water relations, nutrient acquisition, amelioration of the effects of metal toxicity, and increased resistance to pathogens are all benefits attributed to plants colonized by mycorrhizal fungi. A large body of literature exists that indicates that mycorrhizal inoculation programs are useful for improving the performance of forest tree seedlings. Commercial mycorrhizal products, many containing the ectomycorrhizal fungus Pisolithus tinctorius (Pers.) Coker and Couch (Pt), have emerged from this research and are now being marketed for landscape tree growers."

"Mycorrhizal fungi increase the surface absorbing area of [tree] roots 100 to a 1,000 times... also release powerful enzymes into the soil that dissolve hard-to-capture nutrients, such as organic nitrogen, phosphorus, iron and other “tightly bound” soil nutrients... Tillage, removal of topsoil, erosion, site preparation, compaction, fumigation, invasion of weeds and leaving soils fallow are some of the activities that can reduce or eliminate these beneficial soil fungi. Scientific studies indicate endo mycorrhizal fungal populations are slow to recolonize" (Mycorrhizal Applications [link below]).

Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis increases relative apoplastic water flow in roots of the host plant under both well-watered and drought stress conditions Conclusions: The ability of AM [arbuscular mycorrhizal] plants to switch between water transport pathways could allow a higher flexibility in the response of these plants to water shortage according to the demand from the shoot.

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are all placed in the phylum (division) Glomeromycota. They form the widespread arbuscular mycorrhiza symbiosis with land plants (Embryophyta). The fungi are obligate symbionts that cannot be cultured without a plant as a 'host' (symbiotic partner)... All symbionts within a plant host interact, often in unpredictable ways. A recent meta-analysis indicated that plants colonized by both AM fungi and vertically transmitted endophytes often are larger than plants independently colonized... Similar ranges of interactions can occur between AM fungi and ectomycorrhizal fungi... AM fungi were found to increase plant biomass under drought conditions

Ranges of trees and mycorrhizal status Most mycorrhizal root infections operate as a mutualism, with the plant providing the fungus with energy for respiration in return for minerals and resources that would be otherwise more difficult to access in soil. The relationships between a plant and its mycorrhizae can significantly affect the growth, survival, and fitness of the plant. In the set of tree species for the FOR305 ID Test, there are two functionally distinct types of mycorrhizae—vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM), which penetrate the root’s cell wall and Ectomycorrhizae (ECM), which do not.

The two mycorrhizal types examined in this paper are defined structurally. Vesicular-Arbuscular Mycorrhizae are formed by glomeromycetous fungi. VAM create arbuscles – branched exchange structures – inside the root, notably penetrating the walls of interior root cells (Bagyaraj, 1991; Wang et. al., 2006). Ectomycorrhizae are formed by basidiomycetous and ascomycetous fungi, and create exchange structures known as Hartig nets between cortical root cells. Hartig nets do not penetrate cell walls (Mukerji et. al. 1991). ECM are generally exclusive to perennials, a relationship attributed to the success of perennials in low nutrient, disturbed, and stressful habitats

Mycorrhizae can benefit plants in a range of ways. In general, mycorrhizae have the ability to gain resources that plants cannot adequately access. Because they have a smaller diameter than that of root hairs, fungal hyphae are better able to colonize pores in the soil (Allen, 1991). As noted by Eissenstat, a smaller diameter means a higher length: root mass ratio, which is generally beneficial, as root uptake is primarily correlated with length rather than mass (1992). Benefits are not always constant over the life of the plant. For some species, mycorrhizal infections have a negligible effect, except in times of resource stress, most often drought (Allen, 1991). In these cases, the mycorrhizae are not a continual mutualistic partner, but an “insurance policy.” Mycorrhizae can also be important during early development, giving seedlings a readily accessible network of resources (Allen, 1991). This is especially true if the surrounding plants are closely related, as networks of mycorrhizae between hosts have been shown to allow nutrients to transfer in any direction, and in a way which prefers hosts which are most genetically similar to other hosts in the network (Dighton, 2003).

Over evolutionary history, mycorrhizal status of a species converts from VAM-associated to more “advanced” statuses, such as ECM-associated, on many independent occasions (Wang et. al., 2006). Wang describes the strategy of ECM association as short-term, an opportunistic response to more strenuous environmental conditions, which explains why there are many independent conversions to ECM association, and yet VAM association is still dominant.

Since the ancestor to VAM is thought to have been a key innovation which allowed the evolution of land plants, this would suggest that more primitive groups of species would be more dependent on VAM assocations. Any other species group that showed similarly primitive traits, specifically root hairs that are coarse and sparse, is likely to have a strong VAM association to help improve nutrient intake (Bagyaraj, 1991). This is supported by the findings of Smith and Read (2008), who showed that VAM roots were often more efficient in nutrient acquisition per unit length than non-infected roots.

Chalot and Plassard (2012) noted that VAM [vascular arbuscular mycorrhizae] play a major role in increasing nutrient uptake, especially for phosphorus, but have limited capacity to release nitrogen or phosphorus from inorganic forms. Conversely, ECM [ectomycorrhizae] can actively take up inorganic nutrients and provide them to the host. From this, it can be seen that VAM and ECM provide nutrients to their hosts in functionally different ways.

The most prominent orders that were found to be obligate to Ectomycorrhizae were the Pinales [pine and cypress trees] and Fagales [beech, birch, walnut trees] (Table 2). This is consistent with the findings of Wang et. al. (2005), who showed that Pinaceae and Fagales were dominantly ECM obligate. From analyzing the numerous instances when ECM associations evolved, Wang et. al. hypothesize that the majority of ECM hosts typically grow in nutrient-poor environments, and descend from clades [a group of organisms believed to have evolved from a common ancestor] that used to live in less stressful environments; for example, Rosids such as the Malvales. Ectomycorrhizae are known to sometimes have associations with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which would help in the colonization of areas with resource limitations (Trappe, 1987).


Paul Stamets

Ectomycorrhizae are more active in nutrient intake. They are also known to secrete enzymes to break down the litter layer in order to gain better access to nutrients (Chalot and Plassard, 2012). Furthermore, while VAM are known to branch into a fan-shaped pattern, the outer extent of ECM, the mycelium, forms a net-shaped structure, which allows for better substrate colonization (Allen, 1991).

The mycorrhizal status of the species examined was dominantly obligative, with associations with Vesicular-Arbuscular Mycorrhizae being common, associations with Ectomycorrhizae being secondary, prevalent especially in species that range in nutrient limited conditions, and with a small group of species that displayed flexible associations.

The defining characteristic of trees is the extensive production of woody tissue, an undertaking which requires good access to nutrients. It is not surprising then that most trees have mycorrhizal associations, as these mutualisms tend to improve nutrient access. The most influential factor for determining VAM versus ECM status seems to be environmental stress, a hypothesis which is supported by the many parallel occurrences of ECM status corresponding to nutrient stress found by Wang et. al. (2006). From the ranges analyzed in this paper and current knowledge of the differences between VAM and ECM fungi, it seems that resource trade-offs play an important role in determining the success of both types of associations. Therefore, through various mechanisms, environment is the main factor which determines mycorrhizal status in trees.

Mycorrhiza Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi are the most common type of Mycorrhizae on the planet, and 90% of all plant families contain AMF. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi is also known as Vesicular Arbuscular Mycorrhizae (VAM)

Extracellular activity, (existing, occurring and functioning outside a cell), is known as Ectomycorrhizal Fungi (EcM), and are found between the roots of around 10% of plant families, mostly woody plants including the Birch, Eucalyptus, Oak, Pine and Rose families. Ectomycorrhizas consist of a hyphal sheath, or mantle, which covers the root tip and surround the plant cells within the root cortex. In some cases the hyphae may also penetrate the plant cells, in which case the Mycorrhiza is called an ectendomycorrhiza. Outside the root, the fungal mycelium forms an extensive network within the soil and leaf litter["the mat"]. Nutrients can be shown to move between different plants through the fungal network (sometimes called the wood wide web).

The third most important relationship is Ericoid Mycorrhiza. They have a simple intraradical (grow in cells) phase, consisting of dense coils of hyphae in the outermost layer of root cells. There is no periradical phase and the extraradical phase consists of sparse hyphae that don't extend very far into the surrounding soil. They might form sporocarps (probably in the form of small cups), but their reproductive biology is little understood.

Ericoid Mycorrhizae have also been shown to have considerable saprotrophic capabilities, which would enable plants to receive nutrients from not-yet-decomposed materials via the decomposing actions of their ericoid partners

Ericoid mycorrhiza The ericoid mycorrhiza is a mutualistic symbiosis formed between members of the plant family Ericaceae and several lineages of fungi. The symbiosis represents an important adaptation to acidic and nutrient poor soils that species in the Ericaceae typically inhabit, including boreal forests, bogs, and heathlands. Molecular clock estimates suggest that the symbiosis originated approximately 140 million years ago

('The Ericaceae are a family, commonly known as the heath or heather family and blackberries, of flowering plants found most commonly in acid and infertile growing conditions." (Wikipedia).)

FUNCTION OF ERICOID MYCORRHIZA Plants of the Ericales live in inhospitable environments... The plants are found in acid to extremely acid soils... Mineral nutrients especially nitrogen and phosphorus are particularly unavailable. The mycorrhizal associations of these plants play a crucial role in plant access to both N and P... The precise source of inoculum for initiating colonisation is unclear. Spores of many epacrid mycorrhizal fungi have the potential to survive steam treatment of soil, a characteristic typical of the ascospores of many Ascomycota. This indicates that soils may contain fungal propagules in excess of that necessary for initiation of mycorrhizas, perhaps because the fungi function in other, as yet unknown, areas.

Mycorrhizal application is easy and quick and does not require specialist equipment, training or personal protective equipment. Physical contact between the Mycorrhizal inoculants and the plant root is the only precursor to getting inoculation right. Mycorrhizal inoculants can come in a powder form and be sprinkled onto roots when plants are transplanted, watered in via existing irrigation systems.

Many fertiliser regimes push top growth at the expense of root development, making plants vulnerable to stressful environments. Frequent, high levels of fertiliser produce an unbalanced and often unsustainable shoot-to-root ratio. Mycorrhizae, on the other hand, feed your plants and stimulate root growth. Unlike Mycorrhizae, fertiliser cannot help prevent root disease, improve soil structure or promote other beneficial microbes.

...organic natural fertilisers work best with Mycorrhizal inoculants, and improving the soil in the traditional way before planting if it is very poor coupled with the addition of Mycorrhizal inoculants will provide the best results.

David Moore's World of Fungi covers the whole range of mycology from UK... Fungi are not bacteria, because fungi are eukaryotes and they have the complex cell structures and abilities to make tissues and organs that we expect of higher organisms... Unfortunately, even though fungi make up such a large group of higher organisms, most current biology teaching, from school level upwards, concentrates on animals, with a trickle of information about plants. The result is that the majority of school and college students (and, since they’ve been through the same system, current University academics) are ignorant of fungal biology and therefore of their own dependence on fungi in everyday life.... There are three major Kingdoms of eukaryotes: Kingdom Fungi, Kingdom Viridiplantae (all green plants), and Kingdom Animalia (all multicellular animals)... "... animals and fungi are sister groups while plants constitute an independent evolutionary lineage..." [Baldauf, S. L. & Palmer, J. D. (1993). Animals and fungi are each others closest relatives - congruent evidence from multiple proteins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U. S. A., 90: 11558-11562].

How to Inoculate Ectomycorrhizal Fungi Mycorrhizal fungi are generally known as successful tools to increase plant growth and health. Ectomycorrhizal fungi are generally the easiest type of mycorrhizal fungi to inoculate and transplant because they are easily found by woody plants and they do not need to be attached to a host plant to survive.

Ectomycorrhizal fungi - Mycorrhizal fungi that attach their own mycelia to the roots of the host plant using their Hartig Net [1] without invading the host plant's roots. Ectomycorrhizae are usually associated with woody plants, including trees such as fir, pine, beech, oak, and birch.

Symbio Mycorrhizae Mycorrhizae (it means fungus root) are a group of about 400 fungi that form symbiotic relationships with plants. They live in or on the roots, extend their hyphae into the soil and make phosphate, nitrogen other nutrients and water available to the host plant. They extend the effective root area many hundreds of times so plants grow faster, larger and stronger with less fertiliser and water.

Symbio. Mycorrhizae FAQ

Q. Do all plants need the same mycorrhizal fungi?
A. No. Most perennial plants, shrubs trees, vegetables and grasses associate with endo mycorrhizae that live in the root system. Coniferous trees and oak beech birch chestnut and hickory associate with ecto mycorrhizae. These live in the soil on the outside of the root.

Q. When is inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi needed?
A. Mycorrhizae live on the roots of plants so if your field, vegetable patch or flower bed has been left without plants for more than a few weeks there will not be any mycorrhizae present inoculation is needed. Nursery grown plants grown in sterile growing media and fed with fertiliser, water and pesticides will not have mycorrhizal associations and inoculation is needed. If you plant a conifer or beech tree into a lawn or grassland the mycorrhizae in the soil will be endo mycorrhizae the wrong type for conifers so inoculation with ecto mycorrhizae will be needed. If you are planting into heavily disturbed soil, salted or fertilised soil on a building site, ploughed field, roadside or landscaping project inoculation will be needed.

Q. How do I apply mycorrhizal inoculums?
A. Mycorrhizal fungi live on the roots so any method you employ to get the mycorrhizae onto the root of the plant will work. For seeds you can mix with inoculum before planting or dust power into the seed drill. For all other transplants either dust or drench the mycorrhizae onto the roots before planting or apply to the planting pit. For stressed established trees either drill down to the roots with a fork or augur around the drip line approx 0.5 meters apart, put the mycorrhizae in a solution with enough water to reach the feeder roots and pour it down the holes; or use specialist ground aeration equipment e.g. Gwazae to aerate and inject the soil.

Q. Can I overdose?
A. Effectively no but do not put too much carrier around seeds.

Q. What is the minimum amount of inoculum needed to form mycorrhizae?
A. In theory Mycorrhizae can form from only one spore that germinates and infects a root, In practice you get a better result by spreading spores evenly around the root system. Different products have different spore quantities so we suggest that the manufacturers recommendations are followed.

Q. Do mycorrhizae control plant diseases?
A. Mycorrhizae improve the health of plants and their roots, so diseases may cause less damage. Mycorrhizae and symbiotic bacteria and fungi also form a barrier around the root system so it may be more difficult for pathogens to attack the plant allowing mycorrhizal plants to better resist infections by plant pathogens.

Q. Are some types of mycorrhizae better for some plants or soil conditions?
A. Yes that is why Symbio has eight different species of endo mycorrhizae and seven different species of ecto mycorrhizae in its products to account for most conditions and plants.

A Review of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets Reviewed by Terry Shistar... Stamets and others have been working with fungi that feed on insects, and he has figured out a way to grow fungi that delay their spore formation and actually attract the insect to the fungus, thus breaking through an obstacle in using fungi to protect homes from carpenter ants and termites... Stamets also talks about the use of fungi to detoxify toxic chemicals, and his list of chemicals digestible by fungi includes dioxins, organophosphates, PCBs, and many wood preservative chemicals, including pentachlorophenol. He also tells how filters of mushroom spawn can remove pathogens, nutrients, and toxins from runoff.


REFERENCES

Ausubel, Kenny, ed. Nature's Operating Instructions: The True Biotechnologies. Armillarias are long lived and form some of the largest living organisms in the world. The largest single organism (of the species Armillaria solidipes) covers more than 3.4 square miles (8.8 km2) and is thousands of years old. Some species of Armillaria are bioluminescent and may be responsible for the phenomena known as foxfire. As a forest pathogen, Armillaria can be very destructive.

Fungi plants, and algae have cell walls. Fungal cell walls are special in that they contain chitin like the exoskeleton of insects and lobsters. Although indigestible to humans hot water extracts bioactive beta—Glucans from the fungal walls. These bind to the surface of macrophage blood cells & act as immunostimulants & cancerostatics.

George, E., K.U. Haussler, S.K. Kothari, X.-L. Li, and H. Marschner. 1992. Contribution of mycorrhizal hyphae to nutrient and water uptake of plants, pp 43-47. In Read, D.J., D.H. Lewis, A.H. Fitter, and I.J. Alexander (Eds.). Mycorrhizas in Ecosystems. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.

O'Keefe, D.M., and D.M. Sylvia. 1991. Mechanisms of the vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal plant-growth response, pp 35-53. In Arora, D.K., B. Rai, K.G. Mukerji, and G.R. Knudsen (Eds.). Handbook of Applied Mycology. Marcel Dekker, New York, NY.

Stamets, Paul. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press (Random House), 2005. Amazing book; will change how you view nature.

Mycelium Running entire book in PDF file

Download the book


Fungi Perfecti great source for spores and info., founded by Paul Stamets

Fungi Perfecti on Paul Stamets

Stamets Articles

6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World

Video: Paul Stamets - The Future is Fungi [how to save the planet]

Discover Magazine: How Mushrooms Can Save the World: Crusading mycologist Paul Stamets says fungi can clean up everything from oil spills to nuclear meltdowns.

Fungi Magazine

A Way To Garden article on feeding soil with micorrhizae

Glossary of Mycological Terms

Mycology Glossary

MicoGlossary

Glossary of Mycological Terms with Photos

Mycological Glossary Or Aid to the Study of Mushrooms extensive and detailed PDF

The Shroomery Mycology Glossary

Mycorrhizal Applications FAQs

Mycological Society of America the publications, Mycologia and Innoculum are very good

North American Mycological Association NAMA

Lambert Spawn Source for professional growers

Earth's Tongue Mycology Supplies

Cecil Terence Ingold "one of the most influential mycologists of the twentieth century"

Turkey Tail Mushrooms Help Immune System Fight Cancer by Paul Stamets

Return of the Fungi Paul Stamets is on a quest to find an endangered mushroom that could cure smallpox, TB, and even bird flu. Can he unlock its secrets before deforestation and climate change wipe it out?

Mycorrhizae of Landscape Trees

Interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and other soil organisms by A.H. Fitter and J. Garbaye. Plant and Soil, 159: 123-132, 1994.

Book: Ch. 11: Specificity Phenomena in Mycorrhizal Symbioses by by Randy Molina et al. Lists Cypresses as one of the trees encouraged by mycorrhizae.

Mycorrhizal Applications Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc. is a leader in the research and development of mycorrhizal inoculum for commercial use. With over 30 years of experience we have compiled the webs largest collection of mycorrhizal related content...

North American Mycological Association

All you ever wanted to know about Mycelium

Some fungi help plants to grow

Mycologia journal

Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus 11/12/14. Hidden under your feet is an information superhighway that allows plants to communicate and help each other out. It’s made of fungi

The Structure and Function of the Ericoid Mycorrhizal Root

Ericoid mycorrhizas David Moore's World of Fungi: where mycology starts

Mycelium is the Basis for Fungal Growth

All About Fungi by Bryce Kendrick, author of _The Fifth Kingdom_

S.A. Fertile Garden organic supplies like compost, mulch, and beneficial insects

Bio Organics adding life to soil. Sell mycorrhizal innoculants

A Wharton grad hopes there's money in fungus article about new owner of BioOrganics

Doctor Fungus all things mycological. Has abbreviations and glossasry

International Symbiosis Society

What are the health benefits of mushrooms? Mushrooms are naturally low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and calories and have often been referred to as "functional foods." In addition to providing basic nutrition, they help prevent chronic disease due to the presence of antioxidants and beneficial dietary fibers such as chitin and beta-glucans.

One cup of chopped or sliced raw white mushrooms contains 15 calories, 0 grams of fat, 2.2 grams of protein, 2.3 grams of carbohydrate (including 0.7 grams of fiber and 1.4 grams of sugar). Although there are a large variety of mushrooms available, most provide the same amount of the same nutrients per serving, regardless of their shape or size.

Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins such as riboflavin, folate, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and niacin. They are also the only vegan, non-fortified dietary source of vitamin D. Mushrooms also provide several minerals that may be difficult to obtain in the diet, such as selenium, potassium, copper, iron, and phosphorus.

Beta-glucans are a type of fiber that is found in the cell walls of many types of mushrooms. Recently, beta-glucans have been the subject of extensive studies that have examined their role in improving insulin resistance and blood cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of obesity and providing an immunity boost.

Mushrooms also contain choline; an important nutrient found that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline assists in maintaining the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, supports proper fat absorption and reduces chronic inflammation.

Sauté any type of mushroom with onions for a quick and tasty side dish... Add raw sliced crimini mushrooms or white mushrooms to top any salad.

Dr. Weil: Mushrooms for Good Health? In general, I advise against eating a lot of the familiar cultivated white or "button" mushrooms found on supermarket shelves throughout the United States. (Portobello and crimini mushrooms are the same species.) They are among a number of foods (including celery, peanuts, peanut products, and salted, pickled, or smoked foods) that contain natural carcinogens. We don’t know how dangerous these toxins are, but we do know that they do not occur in other mushrooms that offer great health benefits. I strongly advise against eating these or any other types of mushrooms raw, whether they’re wild or cultivated. If you're going to eat them cook them well, at high temperatures, by sauteeing, broiling, or grilling. Heat breaks down many of the toxic constituents.

Dr. Mercola: The Health Benefits of Mushroom Consumption Mushrooms contain some of the most potent natural medicines on the planet. Of the 140,000 species of mushroom-forming fungi, science is familiar with only 10 percent, according to world-renown mycologist Paul Stamets, who has written six books on the topic.

About 100 species of mushrooms are being studied for their health-promoting benefits. Of those hundred, about a half dozen really stand out for their ability to deliver a tremendous boost to your immune system.

It's important to eat only organically grown mushrooms because they absorb and concentrate whatever they grow in — good OR bad. This is what gives mushrooms their potency. Mushrooms are known to concentrate heavy metals, as well as air and water pollutants, so healthy growing conditions is a critical factor.

As a defense against bacterial invasion, fungi have developed strong antibiotics, which also happen to be effective for us humans. Penicillin, streptomycin, and tetracycline all come from fungal extracts.

Mushrooms that can help boost the nutrient content of your diet include: shiitake, reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail, and Himematsutake.

5 health benefits of mushrooms slideshow Many varieties of mushrooms contain good-for-your-bladder selenium and, like us, they produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Oyster mushrooms are a good source or iron. Plus, they're low in calories: Six medium white, for example, have just 22.

Increase your vitamin D:
Yes, vitamin D! Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of this critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight. Exposing them to high levels of ultraviolet B just before going to market converts more of the plant sterol ergosterol into the so-called sunshine vitamin. In the U.S., portobellos fortified with vitamin D are already being sold.

Boost your immune system:
A study done on mice and published by the American Society for Nutrition found that white button mushrooms may promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while they are trying to protect and repair the body’s tissues. A later study showed that these mushrooms promoted the maturation of immune system cells–called dendritic cells–from bone marrow. According to he researchers, this may help enhance the body’s immunity leading to better defence systems against invading microbes.

Eat your antioxidants:
When it comes to antioxidants—the substances that help fight free radicals that are the result of oxidation in our body—we’re more likely to think of colourful vegetables than neutral-hued mushrooms. But a study at Penn State university showed that the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC)—a measure of a food’s total antioxidants—of crimini and portobello mushrooms were about the same as for red peppers.

Kick up your metabolism:
B vitamins are vital for turning food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body burns to produce energy. They also help the body metabolize fats and protein. Mushrooms contain loads of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin): 100 grams (31/2 ounces) of crimini have 44 percent and 30 percent of your daily recommended amount, respectively, white button have 36 and 30 percent, and oyster mushrooms have 32 and 39 percent.

Be good to your bladder:
An analysis of seven studies—published last year in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention—showed that the higher the level of selenium, as measured in blood serum and toenails, the lower the risk of bladder cancer. Selenium had a significant protective effect mainly among women, which the researchers believe may result from gender-specific differences in this its accumulation and excretion. Several types of mushrooms are rich in this essential trace mineral: 100 grams of raw crimini have 47 percent of your daily needs, cooked shiitakes have 45 percent and raw white button have 17 percent.

Mushroom Benefits For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have revered mushrooms’ health benefits.1 Mushrooms have long been celebrated as a source of powerful nutrients.

Mushroom Info includes lots of recipes

Mushrooms 4 Health BY GREG MARLEY

Power of Mushrooms article on flavor without salt.

Are Mushrooms Good for You? Mushrooms are also quite good at neutralizing free radicals, those renegade molecules that can otherwise get up to no good. In fact, you might be surprised (as I was) to learn that when it comes to antioxidant power, the plain old white button mushroom beats out even colorful veggies like green peppers, carrots, green beans, and tomatoes! Best of all, mushrooms contain antioxidants that are not deactivated or destroyed by cooking.

In addition to being antioxidant powerhouses, mushrooms contain unique compounds that appear to boost your immune defense.

You can boost the vitamin D content of mushrooms by putting them on a sunny windowsill or—if sunlight is not plentiful—a UVB bulb works, too. You’ll find UVB bulbs at pet stores that carry supplies for reptiles. Just put your mushrooms under the bulb for a couple of hours and then cook and eat them as usual. This method is so effective that it can even reverse a vitamin D deficiency.

Dried mushrooms can be reconstituted in warm water and then added to soups, casseroles, or stir-fries. Reserve the soaking water after removing the mushrooms. This mushroom “liquor” adds depth and richness to soups or stews—or use it as the liquid to cook rice or other grains.

I also just discovered these great dried mushroom and spice blends from a company called Fungus Among Us. You can sprinkle them over eggs, sandwich fillings, and cooked vegetables. They also make wonderful dry rubs for meat, tofu, or fish. And for a really fantastic dip, try combining 2 tablespoons of the Pacific Blend (organic oyster mushrooms smoked with thyme and cayenne) with 4 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese. Refrigerate over night to let the flavor develop. Serve with crackers or raw vegetables for a healthy, gourmet appetizer.

Fungus Among Us Organic Mushroom products and seasonings--dried mushrooms for sale--health benefits of various mushroom varieties

Fungi-zette Newsletter Greenville, California area

MykoWeb fungi of California

Glossary of mycological terms agaric — a term commonly used to describe a fungus having a cap (pileus), gills (lamellae), and a stem (stipe), i.e., what most people would call a mushroom.

Bibliography of Mycological Reference Materials only has one old Stamets book.

Mushroom: The Journal of Wild Mushrooming

Central Texas Mycological Society

Gulf States Mycological Society website is down

Texas Mycological Society

The Great Morel A Tribute to Shroomers--bunches of information.

Mushroom Hobby California and Beyond

Cascade Mycological Society

Tom Volk's Fungi lots on fungi research

Laccaria bicolor a mycorrhizal member of the Basidiomycota. Of course mycorrhizae (literally "fungus roots") are mutually beneficial relationships between fungi and plants-- the fungus gets sugars from photosynthesis while supplying the plant with essential minerals and increased water uptake. Laccaria bicolor was the first mutualistic fungus to have its entire genome sequenced.

Long before its genome was sequenced, L. bicolor was a favorite species for researchers studying ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi. Unlike most other EM fungi, L. bicolor can be grown in culture (from basidiospores or tissue samples) and paired with the roots of its mycorrhizal partner trees (pines and other conifers) in the laboratory, allowing studies of its physiology, biochemistry, and interaction with its plant partner to be studied under controlled conditions. Because most EM plants do not grow well, if at all, without EM fungi, L. bicolor has also been widely used in forestry to colonize the roots of conifer trees prior to outplanting.

Less Lawn info. on lawn alternatives and no-mow yards

The Humongous Fungus--Ten Years Later The fungus Armillaria bulbosa is among the largest and oldest living organisms. Nature 356:428-431),

Tom Volk's Fungi--FAQs Q. Can I eat it? A. Probably not. Of the 70.000 species of fungi about 250 species are considered good delicious edibles. Another 250 species can kill you-- or at least make you wish you were dead. Everything else is something in between-- from some that are "sort of ok tasting if there's nothing else to eat and you're starving in the woods" to some that are "just too bitter or taste too bad to eat," or some that are too small or too tough to eat or that have something else wrong with them.

Wild Mushrooms Factsheet--Ohio State Univ. Many pics.

Basic Mushrooming Missouri... Poisonous mushrooms can contaminate other mushrooms.

Myco Society Colorado. Irritating pop-up ads

New Jersey Mycological Association--Recipes

The Kingdom Fungi The Mycota, or the Fungi, are usually conisidered to be a separate taxonomic Kingdom from either plants or animals... covers diseases caused by fungi

White's Mycology Page

George Barron's Website on Fungi lots of info.

Matsiman Morels

Cornell Mycology website

Technical Report on Mycology

Studies in the Amanitaceae white paper quality info.

Mycology Tips Initially, mycology was studied under botany. Later, it was found that fungi are evolutionary so they are more similar to animals than plants. A publication by Pier Antonio Micheli in 1737 started the research on fungi. The term mycology was coined by M.J. Berkeley in 1836, who was a famous mycologist.

CyberLiber on Mycology Mycological literature is extensive, diverse and often dispersed. The objective of this website is to facilitate access to that literature by providing bibliographic lists of references. The present version of the site provides extensive bibliographic information for mycological publications, most dating from the early 1800s to the 1980s, and covering many works in Russian and Ukrainian.

Robert's Wild Mushroom Cookbook

Wild About Mushrooms cookbook

Fungi-Zette recipes

Glossary of Tree Health Terms covers a lot of fungi

Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farm Gonzales, TX. USDA-certified. Kitchen Pride is the only family-owned, full-service, Texas-based Mushroom Farm in Texas. Firmly established nationally as one of the nation’s premier mushroom farms, Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms is one of the most modern mushroom growing facilities in the United States.


Beatrix Potter, Mycologist: The Beloved Children’s Book Author’s Little-Known Scientific Studies and Illustrations of Mushrooms Beatrix Potter (July 28, 1866–December 22, 1943) is one of the most beloved and influential storytellers of all time.

At a time when women had no right to vote and virtually no access to higher education, very rarely owned property and were themselves considered the property of their husbands, Potter became a commercially successful writer and artist, using the royalties from her books to purchase her famed Hill Top Farm, where she lived simply and with great love for the land for the remaining four decades of her life.

But no aspect of Potter’s kaleidoscopic genius is more fascinating than her vastly underappreciated contribution to science and natural history, which comes to life in Linda Lear’s altogether magnificent Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature (public library) — by far the best book on Potter and one of the finest biographies ever written, Lear’s prose itself a supreme work of art.


Flammulina velutipes (Armitt Museum and Library)

By her early twenties, Potter had developed a keen interest in mycology and began producing incredibly beautiful drawings of fungi, collecting mushroom specimens herself and mounting them for careful observation under the microscope. In the winter months, she frequented London’s Natural History Museum to study their displays.


Hygrophorus puniceus (Armitt Museum and Library)

But her interest went far beyond the mere aesthetics or symbolism of mushrooms — she was studious about their taxonomy, taught herself the proper technique for accurate botanical illustration, and worked tirelessly to get an introduction to the eminent mycologist Charles McIntosh. With his help and encouragement, she continued advancing her microscopic observations, which kindled in her an intense fascination with how mushrooms reproduced — something poorly understood at the time. Potter soon began conducting her own experiments with spores she had germinated herself. She was particularly captivated by lichens, considered at the time the “poor peasants of the plant world,” in the words of the great botanist Linnaeus — a statement itself belying the dearth of scientific understanding at the time, for lichens are not plants but a hybrid of fungi and algae.


Himeola auricula (Armitt Museum and Library)

This hybrid nature, first proposed by the Swiss botanist Simon Schwendener in 1869 and believed by no one else for decades, seemed so laughable a concept that “Schwendenerist” became a term of derision. But young Beatrix’s experiments convinced her that Schwendener was on to something with his “dual hypothesis.” She set down her theories and empirical findings in a paper titled “On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae,” accompanied by her breathtakingly detailed illustrations.


Strobilomyces strobilaceus (Armitt Museum and Library)

The Woodwide Web by Susan Goldhor

For a long time I thought of the forest as the ultimate in capitalist ecosystems, where the capital was sunlight and the trees reaching the canopy were the plutocrats. Or, as I privately termed them, the Donald Trunks. As for those below... well, every system has its losers, right?

[Scientists] discovered that the above-ground capitalism of the forest had a social services underground, with a complicated fungal web connecting plants together by their roots, taking from the Haves to give to the Have-Nots. A fungal safety net!

In some estimates, big trees lose/donate as much as 40% of their sugars from their roots and, although some of that goes to feed the soil’s other inhabitants, most of it goes directly to the trees’ fungal partners. These partners (and one tree can have more than twenty different fungal partners) are attached to the roots so thickly as to cover them, but they also maintain connections to others of the same species and to other plants.

It’s this network, which some clever person has termed the “wood-wide web” which keeps those understory plants and light-deprived seedlings alive on the forest floor. That tiny hemlock tree that doesn’t even reach your knee and has a stem thinner than a pencil? It might be a hundred years old. Supported by the web, it’s waiting for an ice storm or a hurricane or a logger to open up the canopy and give it sun and space to grow.

No tree is an island. No tree lives by sunlight and carbon dioxide alone. Tree roots exist for physical support. They’re really not very good at accessing water and nutrients.

It’s the fungal web that can find distant patches of water; that can leach phosphorus from minute mineral particles; that rots debris and kills insects to get nitrogen, and then shares all this with the big trees in exchange for sugar.

Radical Mycology I'm a bit of a fungi nerd, and with good reason, as fungi are one of the key elements of life on Earth while being one of the least understood, at least in terms of the sheer volume of varieties and how they interact with the rest of the systems on the planet. I'm currently reading Radical Mycology: A Treatise on Seeing and Working With Fungi, which is an incredible foray into the world of fungi, and was kind of blown away by the fact that of an estimated 15 million species on Earth, some 6 million of them may be fungi, and yet only about 75,000 of them, or 1.5%, have been classified as now. This means that the study of mycology is one of the areas of the life sciences that is still relatively untapped, and because of what we're now starting to learn about fungal networks and mycelial 'internets,'

Tyroler glückspilze Everything to be happy--mushrooms [Deutsch]


Soil Improvement

Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Amazing Underground Secret to a Better Garden Nurture the ancient, symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants’ roots for increased garden harvests and healthier soil.

We still define natural habitats primarily in terms of plants and animals, the two kingdoms of life we can see with unaided eyes. The greatest amount of biological activity and the largest diversity of species and genes, however, come from the other four kingdoms science now recognizes: bacteria, archaea (a less-studied division of life-forms formerly considered bacteria), protists (mostly single-celled algae and protozoans), and fungi.

The vast majority of these members are microscopic in size. They cannot be seen with the naked eye, but we now know they permeate soils and suffuse waters. They drift en masse through air. They thrive not only on the surface of every plant and animal, but within them as well. From the upper reaches of the atmosphere to the bottom of the seas, down into the rock layers and outnumbering the stars in the known universe, microbes are literally the creatures that make Earth a living planet.

Microbes remain mostly in the “out of sight, out of mind” category of nature for a lot of folks. Others, chemical spray in hand, can hardly stop thinking about them, envisioning “germs,” mold spores and other unseen swarmers poised to unleash disease and rot. Either way, a broader understanding of the life-forms that truly put the “bio” in “biosphere” has been slow to emerge.

Interest is building, though, as the public learns more about the positive roles microorganisms play, including how some types can boost yields in gardens. These mycorrhizae — extraordinary fungi that interact with our garden crops — are what we’ll be zooming in on.


A white fungal network called hyphae, not plant roots, is the principal structure for the uptake of many important nutrients in the plant kingdom. / The hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi are only a single cell wide, and they penetrate a root’s cell wall to facilitate nutrient exchanges between the fungi and the root tip. This illustration is magnified about 200 times. Illustrations by Michael Rothman

I’m a wildlife biologist. Decades ago, I visited a team working to restore streamsides churned to bare gravel by placer mining. They were planting willow and alder in hopes of stabilizing the banks and preventing further erosion. Other vegetation could then move in and once again shade the passing waters, cooling them for native trout and spawning salmon. I was already picturing songbirds returning to nest in the lush foliage while mink, otters, and bears patrolled the shores, except the normally hardy willow and alder wouldn’t grow. They withered instead, and the banks stayed empty — until the team prepared the next batch to be planted by first soaking their roots in a broth containing certain fungi. This is common practice today. It wasn’t then. Besides changing the way I’ve planted trees at home ever since, the visit made me realize that my view of the most important wildlife in ecosystems might be upside-down.

What is called a mushroom is merely the temporary structure some fungi grow to produce spores. The main body of a fungus typically consists of a network of fine-branching threads known as “hyphae.” While you’ll sometimes see them massed together, spread like a web across a decomposing log, they’re usually hidden underground and essentially invisible to us; the individual filaments are only a single cell wide.

The network of fungal hyphae is called a “mycelium.” As it turns out, the largest known creature on Earth is neither a blue whale nor a redwood tree; it’s the several-hundred-ton mycelium of one humongous fungus that’s between 2,000 and 8,000 years old. Spread across 4 square miles of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, the fungal network grows at an average depth of only a few feet. By contrast, the mycelia of most species are small, but they’re as common as, well, dirt. If you pick up a pinch of soil almost anywhere, you’ll have miles of hyphae in your hand.

Estimates for the number of fungi species run in the millions. Mycologists have identified close to 100,000 so far. Of those, nearly 6,000 interact with plants’ roots. These are roughly divided into two types: those in which the fungus remains outside the root’s cells (ectomycorrhizal fungi) and those that penetrate the root’s cells (endomycorrhizal fungi, illustrated in the Slideshow).

The outcome in both cases is a continual exchange of goods. Ten to 20 percent of the sugars a plant produces through photosynthesis are absorbed by the mycorrhizae. In return, the fungus delivers many essential nutrients to the plant and increases drought resistance.

Higher crop yields can be the result for gardeners. As the ends of the hyphae weave among soil particles via cracks and crannies too small for even the narrowest root hair, the mycelium becomes an auxiliary root system that’s in contact with a subterranean volume of soil from several hundred to 2,500 times greater than what the plant could reach alone.

Plants routinely face a challenge absorbing enough of certain key elements, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and iron. Fungi don’t face this obstacle; they produce specialized acids and enzymes that break the bonds that bind those nutrients to soil and organic compounds. Although we call this process “decay” and attach a morbid aura to the word, it’s a lively enterprise.

Gardeners recognize this decomposition from their compost piles. It’s no surprise that a plant with hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of hyphae working on the plant’s behalf to mine key nutrients and freight them back to the roots is able to grow faster, stay healthier, and ultimately yield more than it would without the fungi’s partnership.


Leeks inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi (right) grow much better than those planted without an inoculant (left). Photo by Paul Pierlott /

Polish scientist Franciszek Kamienski gets credit for discovering in the 1880s that the fungus and plant combination was in fact a symbiosis — a mutually beneficial partnership. A contemporary gave it the name “mycorrhiza,” which is Latin for fungus-root. Don’t get freaked out by the Latin. Just say it with me: my-core-rise-uh. The plural is mycorrhizae: rise-A.

At least 90 percent of all plant families are known to partner with mycorrhizal fungi. These associations can be between a single fungus species and a single plant species, but most plants associate with many species of fungi, and vice versa. Mycorrhizae are by no means considered the exception any longer. They rule. Mycorrhizae, not plant roots, are the principal structures for most nutrient uptake in the plant kingdom.

The first plants that colonized land some 400 to 500 million years ago were descendants of aquatic algae. According to fossil evidence, symbioses with fungi appeared shortly afterward. Some think they had already formed before the proto-plants even left the water. Either way, mycorrhizae would have greatly improved early plants’ chances of adapting to the stresses imposed by the harsher and less predictable environments encountered on shore, especially since those plants hadn’t really developed roots yet. In a sense, helping plants cope with the demands of life on land is what mycorrhizae have been doing ever since.

Although we think of fungi being most at home in deep, dank forests, they’re surprisingly abundant in open shrublands and prairies, too. The outer walls of hyphae contain gluey compounds that cause fine particles of earth to clump together on and around the threads. This process is a major factor in building soil structure and making the ground less vulnerable to erosion.

Mycelial networks also play a valuable role in sequestering carbon within microclusters of filaments. They limit their partner plants’ exposure to heavy metals, such as lead, zinc and cadmium, by keeping those elements bound to the hyphae’s sticky sheath.

At high latitudes and high altitudes, mycorrhizal fungi scrounge nutrients from cold, rocky soils. In boggy regions, the hyphae buffer plant partners from the high acid content of peaty soils. In saline ground, the hyphae help safeguard their partners from high salt concentrations. Mycorrhizae can also protect plants from pests and diseases.

How can a gardener take advantage of this symbiotic relationship that plants and fungi have been developing for 400 million years? Microbiologist David Douds of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has been studying that question for 35 years. His studies show that fungal inoculants can increase the yields of many vegetable and field crops, including leeks, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Inoculants can give transplants a strong start, but the main key to raising good crops lies in maintaining healthy communities of native mycorrhizal fungi in the ground itself. Douds cautions against heavy or frequent tilling and the use of chemical fertilizers (especially phosphorus) and soil-applied fungicides. These activities break apart, weaken or otherwise suppress beneficial microbes, including fungal mycelia. You can keep your soil in prime condition by minimizing disturbances apart from occasional light tilling, weeding and mulching.

How to Use Cover Crops and Other Techniques to Increase Beneficial Fungi Populations

An equally important step is to ensure that mycorrhizal fungi survive through winter and early spring. The kinds of mycorrhizal fungi that support many garden crops aren’t capable of living and reproducing independently of their plant partners. In a carefully weeded and fully harvested garden, mycorrhizal fungi numbers can decline for lack of live roots to colonize.

Douds advises avoiding empty beds by keeping plants, whether food crops or cover crops growing at all times. (See Cover Crops and Cover Crops 2 for ideas.) In fall, plant rye, oats or, Douds’ favorite, hairy vetch. All of these plants have extensive root systems and readily harbor mycorrhizae.

Rows of perennial onions and strawberries can also serve as reservoirs for overwintering fungi. Orchards don’t require the same attention, but buffer strips of a grass-and-legume blend will help retain a mix of fungi.

Douds sows hairy vetch in September while his garden is still producing, targeting areas where the soil is accessible, such as under and around tomato plants.

The following year — usually late May when the hairy vetch is in full flower — he chops the shoots and lets them lie on the soil’s surface. Wait until the hairy vetch is in full flower; cut it too soon and it will re-sprout as a “weed,” but cut it too late and it will produce seeds, which can be problematic. Douds then transplants his tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables into the hairy vetch mulch.

Since learning about mycorrhizae’s reliance on live plants for winter survival, Mother’s Editor-in-Chief, Cheryl Long, has grown a thin strip of perennial alfalfa along the edges of her garden paths. “It doesn’t take up growing space, and during summer I cut it for protein-rich poultry feed,” Long says.

Many gardeners know that over-fertilization can be harmful, but they may not be aware that phosphorus builds up in soil more readily than the other two elements in common fertilizer mixes (nitrogen and potassium). Under a regimen of frequent, well-intended application, phosphorus can reach levels that actually discourage the formation of mycorrhizae. Phosphorus is the middle number of the N-P-K percentages shown on fertilizer products. Choose low “P” numbers unless a soil test has shown your soil is low in phosphorus.

Now that scientists have taught us that invisible, magical mycorrhizae are in the soil, minimal tilling and constant cover crops should be considered a routine part of growing good crops. If you want to take extra steps in spring to help your crops establish these remarkable plant-fungi partnerships, Douds, in cooperation with the Rodale Institute, has developed a technique you can use to grow your own fungal inoculum to give your transplants a head start at the very beginning of their lives. For details, visit the Rodale Institute.

Quick and Easy Guide: On-farm AM fungus inoculum production Following is the crib-notes recipe for producing beneficial AM fungus inoculum on-farm.

The following list will produce 16 “Grow Bags” of inoculum, enough to make 200 or 400 ft3 of inoculated greenhouse potting media depending on the dilution ratio (1:9 or 1:19) of inoculum:potting media used in the final step.

Bahiagrass seed (sources for bahiagrass seed can be found on the internet, for example: http://agriseek.com/market/p/Pensacola-Bahiagrass-Seed.htm)

Conical plastic pots (we use RLC-4 Pine Cells from Stuewe and Sons, Corvallis, OR 97333)

Coarse sand such as swimming pool filter sand (240 in3 for 80 seedlings)

Ground cover fabric (16 Grow Bags fit on a 1.2 m x 3.6 m or 4 ft x 12 ft section)

16-7 gallon “Grow Bags” (one source is Worm’s Way, Bloomington, IN 47404)

4-4 ft3 bags of vermiculite

4 ft3 of compost

In order to maximize mycorrhizal proliferation and colonization of the host plant, the inoculum bags should be setup outside as soon as possible after the last frost. Some work is necessary before this date. The finished inoculum will be ready for use the following spring.

4 months before the predicted last frost [11/20 in San Antonio]:

Germinate bahiagrass seeds (or other host seeds) in vermiculite or seed starter.

Order any needed materials.

3 months before the predicted last frost [12/20 in San Antonio]:

Transplant bahiagrass seedlings into conical plastic pots filled with 1:3 soil:sand mixture (volume basis). In order to avoid introducing pathogens, we suggest using sterilized field soil. Another option is to use soil from a natural area of the farm or from a field that has not been used within the past 2 years to grow the crop that will be inoculated.

As soon as possible after the last frost [3/20 in San Antonio]

Set up the inoculum production area by covering an area with the ground cover fabric. This will provide a clean, open area that makes maintenance easy. It will prevent weeds from growing around the bags and contaminating the inoculum with weed seed.

Set up the grow bags:

Mix compost and vermiculite in chosen dilution. A basic recommendation for yard clippings compost from municipal facilities is a 1:4 compost:vermiculite ratio (volume basis).

Fill bags ¾ full with mixture. Roll the lip of the bag down to just above the level of the mix.

Add 100 cm3of field soil as the “inoculum starter” and mix well.

Pool 4-5 soil samples taken from the surface to 10cm (4 in) deep. Sieve out roots and rocks.

To avoid introducing pathogens and to obtain a diverse sample of AM fungi, take samples from a natural area of the farm or from a field that has not been used within the past 2 years to grow the crop that will be inoculated.

Transplant 5 bahiagrass or host plant seedlings into each bag.

During the growing season:

Weed and water the bags as needed. The mycorrhizae will proliferate as the plants grow.

Frost will kill the bahiagrass and the mycorrhizae will overwinter naturally outdoors in the bags.

The following spring:

Harvest the inoculum:

To keep the inoculum clean, cut off the dead bahiagrass leaves and discard.

Shake the compost and vermiculite mix from the root ball into a bin. This mix will contain the mycorrhizal spores and hyphae.

Cut the roots into short segments (less than 1cm or ½ inch) and mix into bin. The roots contain the mycorrhizal vesicles.

Mix the inoculum into your potting medium:

Use a 1:9 inoculum:media mix (volume basis) for flats with cells of 50 cm3 or smaller. For larger cells a 1:19 mixture should be sufficient.

Amend your greenhouse fertilization regime to avoid P-sufficient plants that will resist colonization:

Conventional farmers: Try to achieve a P addition of 3 ppm or less for no more than three fertilizer applications per week. Apply P-free solutions at other times if necessary.

Organic farmers: If your potting medium requires additional fertilization, use a low P source. If your potting medium contains all the nutrients needed during the greenhouse culture phase, no modifications are recommended at this time.

When gardening or farming with mycorrhizae in mind, there are a couple of things you don’t need to worry about. The first, Douds points out, is that you don’t need to inoculate your established garden soil with beneficial fungi.

If the soil has had plant cover and hasn’t been abused, it will already have the fungi present. The second non-worry is what would be best for beets, spinach and most members of the mustard family, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kale and radishes. These are among the relatively few plants that get along fine without fungi for partners.

How to Promote the Plant-Mycorrhizae Partnership

• Minimize soil tilling
• Always keep live plants in your beds, even in winter
• Rotate crops within your beds
• Avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers
• Avoid applying too much phosphorus; a soil test every few years is a good idea

Mycorrhizal Fungi and Plant Roots: A Symbiotic Relationship Mycorrizal fungi help plant roots absorb nutrients and fight off harmful, soil-dwelling predators. In exchange, the fungus receives sugars and nutrients from its host plant.


Lichens from Antarctica survived 34 days in a laboratory setting designed to simulate the environment on Mars. Photo by Fotolia/Ifrabanedo / The prevailing opinion among experts is that when you’re looking through a microscope at mitochondria, you’re looking at highly modified bacteria whose ancestor formed a symbiosis with a larger, single-celled creature eons ago. Photo by Fotolia/zozulinskyi

Observations of hyphae bound together with root hairs weren’t reported until the 19th century. No one made much of the findings for decades afterward, because botanists took them to be examples of fungi parasitizing plants. Polish scientist Franciszek Kamienski gets credit for discovering in the 1880’s that the fungus and plant combination was in fact a symbiotic relationship.

A contemporary gave it the name mycorrhiza, Latin for fungus-root. Say it with me: my-core-rise-uh. The plural is mycorrhizae: rise-A. It’s worth remembering, because as the years went by, researchers discovered mycorrhizae among the roots of more and more trees, shrubs, grasses, herbs, and even non-vascular plants such as ferns and liverworts.

We All Need Somebody to Lean On: Symbiotic Relationships

At least 80 percent of the plant species on the globe, representing more than 90 percent of all the plant families, are known to form mycorrhizae. In addition to facilitating the transportation of nutrients, at least one kind of mycorrhizal fungus attracts and kills the tiny soil-dwelling arthropods called springtails, a rich source of nitrogen.

Other carnivorous fungi capture the superabundant microscopic worms known as nematodes, either with sticky knobs that develop from the hyphae, fine filament meshes, or loops that constrict to snare passing prey — fungal lassoes. Weird, but Yeehaw! A variety of mycorrhizal fungi protect plant associates from root-devouring nematodes by producing chemicals lethal to the worms, nematicides, which have drawn interest from the agricultural pest control industry.

Many mycorrhizal fungi secrete antibiotics fatal to bacteria that infect root systems. Not surprisingly, those chemicals have generated close interest among researchers, too.

The more vigorous a plant, the better it can contend with diseases and parasites, compete for space and sunlight, invest extra energy in the production of flowers or cones, successfully reproduce, and replace growth lost to insects, larger grazing animals, storm breakage and seasonal defoliation. That’s the game. Engaging in a symbiotic relationship with fungi is clearly a winning combination for plants, and the connections reach more widely than you might suppose.

Combining old-fashioned shovel work with modern genetic analysis, researchers have traced mycelia that directly connect two or more individuals of the same plant species, allowing them to share resources. They have also found mycelia with hyphae connecting different species. For example, a cluster of conifer saplings arising from a dark forest floor and struggling upward toward the light needs nitrogen to continue building tissues. This element is particularly hard to come by in many woodland soils, and there may be little or none near the saplings’ roots.

But if one of the young conifers can get an infusion of that element through hyphae linked to an alder or birch tree, whose roots host symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria, that particular sapling may be good to go. Make that good to grow.

Of course, a physical attachment via a mycelium isn’t necessary for a plant lacking a nutrient to benefit from a surplus associated with a different plant. If hyphae from the impoverished plant only reach the soil near the second plant, this can be enough.

People have been planting nitrogen-hungry crops like maize next to legumes like peas and beans for generations, think of the Native American’s Three Sisters Gardens. Some farmers might have guessed that the roots of one plant borrowed good stuff from the soil around another, but nobody was aware of the bacteria in nodes on the legume roots making the nitrogen available or aware of the mycorrhizal hyphae gathering it. They just knew the maize grew better.

These days, orchardists, commercial farmers and dedicated gardeners tend to be keenly aware of the symbiotic relationship between plants’ roots and fungi. A good measure of growers’ interest can be found in the long list of companies currently selling mycorrhizal fungi. They offer packets and jars of inoculants to treat roots or seeds prior to planting and larger quantities for broadcasting onto croplands, especially those whose mycelial structures have been disrupted by chemical treatments, over-tilling or compaction from trampling.

Lichen: A Biological Alloy

If you ask the general public to name a partnership between a fungus and a plant, those who aren’t at a loss will probably answer “lichens.” Easily found and often strikingly colorful, lichens are indeed a fungus combined with a photosynthesizing species, but that partner isn’t a plant.

It will be a microbe, single-celled algae or else cyanobacteria, which can convert sunlight to energy as well. Some fungi partner with both types at once. As in a mycorrhiza, the fungus takes a share of the sugars produced by its solar-powered collaborator.

Cyanobacteria also fix nitrogen, making that available to any resident algae as well as to the fungus. The fungus meanwhile shelters the partner cells nested among its filaments and keeps them moist by absorbing water from rain, mists, and dew. In addition, the fungus delivers nutrients from airborne dust caught on its threads and from whatever surface it’s anchored to by the filaments extending from its base.

Swiss botanist Simon Schwendener proposed in 1867 that this combination of creatures represented a symbiotic relationship. It earned him years of scorn from prominent lichenologists. That all organisms are separate, autonomous beings wasn’t just an assumption in those days. It was more like a creed — a projection of the human sense of individual identity in Western culture.

As of 2014, thousands of species of lichens have been identified. By one estimate, they cover as much as six percent of the planet’s land surface. Their nature as a sort of biological alloy makes them tremendously self-sufficient and able to inhabit extreme environments. Often the first to colonize sites destroyed by catastrophic natural events or human disturbance, lichens are also among the last organisms you’ll find standing as you travel from well-watered realms into deserts. It’s the same as you journey from moderate climes toward the barren terrain of alpine crags or polar expanses.

Lichens from Antarctica survived 34 days in a laboratory setting designed to simulate the environment on Mars. For that matter, lichens have been shot into orbit and placed outside a spacecraft in a container that was then opened, directly exposing those composite creatures to the flash-freezing temperatures and cosmic radiation of space for 15 days. Upon returning to Mother Earth, they simply resumed growing!

So many of the plants we see in a field or forest are symbiotic with fungi, and the soils underfoot are so saturated with hyphae, it’s not hard to picture such habitats as titanic lichens. You just have to imagine the plants as equivalent to the single cells of symbiotic algae — big algae poking into the air above ground while enwrapped in a mesh of fungal threads below.

I am You, and You Are Me

Perhaps this is where we should shift our gaze from other species to the one calling itself Homo sapiens. The body of people who puzzle over how the living world works — just like the body of people who aren’t all that interested — each contains trillions of human cells and ten times that many microbes. Some are harmless hitchhikers, but most are symbionts that contribute to our well-being.

Roughly 30,000 species — primarily bacteria but also archaea, protists, and fungi (mostly in the form of yeasts) — typically inhabit the human stomach and intestinal tract. They carry out much of our digestion, manufacture vitamins, fatty acids and other nutrients often missing in the foods we eat; secrete enzymes and hormones that influence the body’s metabolism, energy storage, and immune system, and they destroy or neutralize harmful microbes.

Thousands more species inhabit our mouth and throat, flourishing in those warm, humid environments while helping ensure that harmful varieties of microbes don’t. Still others congregate on our skin and in its pores, in the conjunctiva of our eyes, and in ….. let’s just say any other place you care to imagine.

People are increasingly aware of these facts nowadays. Yet the human-microbe symbiosis goes way deeper. Every cell in every plant and animal, many protists, and all fungi contains organelles known as mitochondria. Commonly described as the power sources of the cell, they build the molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate), whose complex bonds, when broken, release the energy needed to drive other cellular functions.

Mitochondria have their own DNA, different from that in the cell’s nucleus but similar to DNA found in bacteria. These organelles also reproduce on their own by splitting, just as bacteria do. The prevailing opinion among experts is that when you’re looking through a microscope at mitochondria, you’re looking at highly modified bacteria whose ancestor formed a symbiosis with a larger, single-celled creature eons ago.

It probably began with the bigger cell engulfing a bacterium to eat it. Somehow the eatee avoided being digested, took up residence inside the eater’s protoplasm, and carved out a niche in the energy production business. That combination became the primordial line that ultimately led to the larger life forms we know today.

Plants have an additional type of organelle in their cells: chloroplasts. These are the photosynthesizing modules, where green pigments in complex proteins convert the sun’s radiation to chemical energy. That in turn fuels the construction of sugars from ordinary carbon dioxide and water, with oxygen given off as a byproduct.

Like mitochondria, chloroplasts have their own DNA and reproduce independently. As far as scientists can tell, the chloroplasts are almost certainly a strain of cyanobacteria. Widespread in early seas, those microbes were among the first — and maybe the very first — organisms to develop photosynthesis.

Scientists largely credit them with converting earth’s early atmosphere of methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide to a breathable, oxygen-rich one. At some point, like the ancestors of mitochondria, ancient cyanobacteria merged with larger, single-celled organisms. Once again, it may have started when a bigger cell engulfed a smaller one, in this case a cyanobacterium that survived to carry on its sunlight-driven routines. The sugars it contributed led to a better-than-average survival rate for subsequent generations of both species as they reproduced. Their descendants developed into unicellular algae, then multicellular algae, and then — with the help of symbiotic fungi — land plants.

And there you have it. You, I, the rest of humanity, and just about every visible creature we relate to as wildlife, pets, livestock, crops, ornamental plants, and so on, are symbionts, joint ventures in the business of existence, partnered-up from head to toe (or root) with invisible life forms. To me this means that whether you are lost in the wild, mowing a suburban lawn or sitting on the top floor of a skyscraper in an empty, sanitized room, you are never really alone and never truly separate from nature, no matter what you feel or prefer to believe. It’s for others to speculate on the implications for our cherished sense of individuality, not to mention our politics, religious views and environmental consciousness.

Creating Your Own Mycorrhiza Mycorrhiza can be broken down to its root words and translated literally to “root fungus”. Whether fungus makes you think of yellow toenails or mushrooms on a pizza, most don’t realize the impact they do and can have on all life on Earth.

They are an amazing life-form that we are just scratching the surface of their potential. One use that commercial growers and nurseries have known for a while but is now starting to trickle to the average gardener is the symbiotic relationship mycorrhizal fungi has with plants.

All life has co-evolved with bacteria and fungi over millions of years. All life depends on life. Life not only needs to eat life to live but they also need to work together to be successful. Even humans have co-evolved with other life to get to where we are today.

Mitochondria, a component in our cells that creates energy for the cell to produce proteins and molecules for cell function and reproduction has some of its own genetic code intact. This is theorized as occurring because at one point in time it was its own organism. It starting working with other cells and over time they became dependent on each other.

In the bigger picture, roughly 90% of the cells in our body belong to other organisms. Only 10% of the cells that make up us are actually us. We wouldn’t be able to live without the other micro-organisms we evolved with. And plants are the same way.

The roots of plants can only take in nutrients within its rhizosphere, or the area surrounding its roots. This area encompasses about 1/10 of an inch around the roots. Think about it. All that fertilizer, compost, water and whatever else you dump in the soil is only getting to the plant if it is 1/10 of an inch away from the roots. The rest is wasted.

To better survive, the plants root system secretes out certain exudates (organic acids and sugars) to attract particular organisms (fungi and bacteria) for whatever micro-nutrient the plant is lacking. Fungi spread out in root-like stringy webs called hypha and bring the nutrients to the rhizosphere to trade them for the exudates. This basically increases the area of the plants rhizosphere and thus more access to nutrients for the plant.

This alone makes me want to use these little organisms in my garden, but a strong colony of beneficial fungi and bacteria crowd out the harmful ones leaving the plant in better condition. It helps the plant resist pests and diseases, helps the plants from overstressing, and can also increase drought tolerance.

Many studies from around the world have shown the benefits of encouraging this symbiotic relationship. So while you can go buy specific species of fungi to add to your garden and fields’, making them on your own is as easy as creating an environment for what is already in the soil to thrive.

Creating Soil Helpers: They Work Hard So You Don’t Have To

Fungi and Bacteria are classified as decomposers. If they weren’t around we would quickly be swimming in un-decomposed organic matter. Though paradoxically, without them we would not have that organic matter in the first place.

Bacteria are nitrogen loving and capable of ingesting only the simplest of micro-nutrients and sugars.

Woody carbon-filled matter is what fungi are good at breaking down with the enzymes it creates. Knowing this I set out to establish different environments for both organisms to grow.

For the bacteria I made sure to have lots of small organic materials for them to munch on. Layering my compost pile with a good ratio of carbon to nitrogen ensures that the organic matter breaks down enough for the bacteria. Air and water are needed for this as well so a moist and aerated compost pile with plenty of brown and green material is a perfect breeding ground for beneficial bacteria.

Lots of worms showing up in your compost pile are a sign of many decomposers present since this is the worm’s main diet. The excreted material leftover by the worms is also a great addition for soil fertility. I cover my compost pile with straw or leaves since UV light can kill the bacterial colonies you are encouraging to grow.

For the fungi I covered my low hoop tunnel bed last fall with straw while my remaining summer crops were wrapping up for the year. Before winter came I added a good amount of leaves I collected in the Compost Bandit over the top of the straw. This mulch covered the fungi within the soil and enabled them to grow around the straw.

This method is easier than composting because it requires you to do the opposite; you don’t turn it. As mentioned earlier, fungi spread out with thin stringy webs called hypha. Turning and mixing the soil would destroy that hypha killing the network the fungi had created. This is why no-till or low-till is more beneficial in the long run than tilling the ground up every year. You are making it harder for the beneficial fungi to grow which limits their presence for the plants come spring time.


Hoop Tunnel ~

Before spring came this year, I carefully removed all the leaves from my garden bed exposing all the fungi that had been growing there. The next step was to add the bacteria filled compost directly on top. This gives me fungi, bacteria, and good compost to make my garden bed a fertile one for this year’s crops. When pulling out the few weeds that had managed to grow under the leaves, I saw the fungi all wrapped up in the roots. This was a good sign of things to come for the plants I wanted to grow there this year.

In a world where we are too impatient for things to come, it makes sense to find simple ways of doing things so we can more easily make the transition from short term thinking to long term. Growing beneficial fungi doesn’t take any work from you other than setting up an area that encourages growth. There is no tossing and mixing. There is no checking on it daily. It should be added to your end of the year garden preparation for winter. This will not only enable you to use less fertilizers and pesticides but will also make your plants all the more happier and healthier, passing those benefits on to you.


Colby Glass, MLIS, Professor Emeritus