The Benefits of Mycorrhizae Fungal Relationships
Mycorrhizae literally means fungus and root. Mycorrhizae fungus is immensely important, yet not well understood part of healthy ecosystems. Essentially these fungi take up residence in a plants root structure and become extensions of that plant’s roots, helping to vastly extend the plants ability to uptake water and nutrients. There has even been evidence that these fungal root extensions can become networks that plant communities use as an early warning device. For example, if a plant is being attacked by a pest, it can alert other plants in the network that a certain pest has arrived, so the networked plants can respond chemically to help repel the pest. The Paul Revere of the plant world unselfishly calls out the danger to his network, even though it does not help that particular plant. What a great example of unselfish cooperation in the plant world!
So why do we need to be concerned about mycorrhizae fungus?
If we are starting new trees or shrubs, it is important to know whether or not these helpful fungi may be lacking in the soil. If the soil is compacted, tilled, eroded, or lacking in good topsoil, you may be lacking in this beneficial fungus. Therefore, it is important to avoid the aforementioned practices or simply add the fungi when planting in the form of myco packs.
When I installed my swales, I had to disturb quite a bit of soil and soil life. While I did mulch my berms where I was planning to plant my trees & shrubs, that did not address the likely mycorrhizae shortage. I ordered myco packs, which are small packages of mycorrhizae in packs that are a lot like tea bags. When planting your plants, simply place one pack for each foot of height on the plant against the roots of the plant.
It has been about a month since I planted approximately 600 trees & shrubs. Yesterday, I walked along my swales checking the plants. I am happy to say that only 2 plants out of 600 are dead or dying. The 2 plants are Virginia Pines that did not look good when I received them. I suspect they were dying when I received them. My verdict is the myco packs work, and they are worth the extra cost when planting a new tree or shrub.
***Myco Packs can be found at Raintree Nursery online.