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The 500 Million Year Old Garden Friendly Fungi

The 500 Million Year Old Garden Friendly Fungi

Most people will have heard of friendly bacteria for the stomach, but few gardeners will appreciate the potential power of friendly fungi in the garden. In fact, it is probably fair to say that to most gardeners, fungi will be seen as a horror. Whether turning rose leaves brown, creating fairy rings on an immaculate lawn or the dreaded honey fungus destroying trees, fungi may appear to be the stuff of garden nightmares.

However, not all fungi in the garden are bad news. In the wild more than 90% of plant species offer protection to fungi in their roots, supplying them with the food and nutrients needed to survive. In return, these friendly fungi, known as mycorrhizal fungi, provide greater quantities of the raw nutrients the plants need for food and offer protection from diseases. 

Having co-evolved with plants and trees for over 500 million years, mycorrhizal fungi are widespread throughout nature and plays an important role in plant growth and development.

These fungi colonise plant and tree roots, extending the root system into the surrounding soil via an extensive network of fungal filaments (up to 20 metres of fungal filaments can be found in a teaspoon of soil). These thread-like filaments extract nutrients and water from a large soil volume and exchange them for carbon from the plant. This secondary root system, when established, links the root systems of adjacent plants or trees and helps share, more efficiently, nutrient resources throughout the plant community.

Unfortunately, mycorrhizal fungi fibres are often destroyed when the soil is disturbed or dug over by gardening. It is now recognised that the lack of the mycorrhizal relationship is a major cause of poor plant and tree establishment.

But now gardeners have the opportunity to harness this symbiotic relationship provided by mycorrhizal fungi through a new product, rootgrow.

rootgrow offers gardeners the opportunity to reintroduce friendly fungi into their gardens where it is needed most – the vegetable and flower borders. One application of rootgrow at the time of planting will encourage friendly fungi to grow and develop with plants increasing the soil area explored by the plant roots by up to 700 times.

Dr John Dodd, scientist and founder of PlantWorks, comments: “Plant life has benefited from mycorrhizal fungi for over 500 million years. However, it is only in the past 30 years that we have truly begun to understand its beneficial role. Gardeners are only now beginning to benefit from friendly fungi”.

Mycorrhizal fungi have also been proven to make best use of available soil water, conferring a level of drought tolerance. This is particularly important in the UK’s increasingly drier climate. Also the application of mycorrhizal fungi to new roses planted into soil that has previously grown roses has been shown to solve the problem of rose soil sickness. This eliminates the need for chemical soil treatments or replacing cubic feet of top soil

Michael Marriott, Technical Manager of David Austin Roses says ‘I am very pleased to be able to suggest an easy alternative – using mycorrhizal fungi – to overcome the problems of roses replant disease.’

rootgrow helps to create stronger, healthier plants with improved flowering and cropping. rootgrow also increases tolerance to disease and drought. rootgrow provides a one-off treatment for the lifetime of the plant.