Found this book on soil biology which highlights the importance of this soil food web. Excellent microscopy photos here, well worth checking over if you’ve never seen them before or if your thinking about looking at soil under a microscope. It also covers several other things like Seasonal Microbial Activity, Typical Numbers of Soil Organisms in Healthy Ecosystems, Methods for Measuring the Food Web etc. I loved reading this, I’m sure anyone who’s interesting in anything plant/soil related would too.
Strawberry growers could reduce irrigation inputs by up to 40 per cent while still maintaining yields, by inoculating their plants with naturally-occurring beneficial soil-dwelling fungi, researchers at Kent’s East Malling Research (EMR) have found.
Two different species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, or the two in combination, gave similar beneficial results over the control plants in trials by a team that was led by University of Kent PhD student Louisa Robinson-Boyer.
“While it has been long-known that these beneficial fungi can have positive effects on plant nutrient uptake, protect plants from infection by pathogens and buffer them against adverse environmental stresses, this work provides an opportunity to reduce irrigation by 40 per cent and still retain required growth and yield outputs,” she said.
“Working with these fascinating fungi has great potential to address some of the future food security challenges being raised by climate change. This work will greatly assist with future sustainable food production – maintaining yields while reducing inputs.”
The results are published in the Mycorrhiza journal. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi occur in most ecosystems, but their levels are much decreased across intensive agricultural systems, mainly due to soil tillage and the use of fertilisers.
“Interview with Paul Stamets on a American Radio Radio Coast to Coast AM with host John B. Wells, I loved it and have listened several times so thought I’d share with you lot.”
John B. Wells was joined by fungi expert, Paul Stamets, who discussed how mushrooms can enhance the health of our forests, gardens and bodies. He attributed the limited knowledge about the power of mushrooms to their fleeting nature, which provides scientists little time to study them. Additionally, he mused that the varied effects of mushrooms, such as improved health, sustenance, and death, contribute to a sense of fear because “they are so poorly understood.” However, he marveled that there are over 5 million species of fungi on the planet, constituting more than half of the 10 million total species, of all organisms, on Earth.
Stamets shared numerous instances where the ability of fungi to survive and thrive in extreme environments has provided insights into potential ways that they could improve life on Earth. To that end, he revealed how, following the Chernobyl disaster, Ukranian scientists observed that mushrooms in the nearby forests were “hyperaccumulating radioactivity,” thus decontaminating large areas of land. As such, he suggested that the problems of radioactive fallout facing Japan, following the Fukushima disaster, may be alleviated via the use of mushrooms. Stamets also talked about how the unique survival abilities of various fungi forms could be used to both provide food for exploring astronauts as well as terraforming planets in the future.
Beyond the environmental benefits attributed to mushrooms, Stamets also detailed a myriad of ways that fungi have shown to be beneficial to human health. For instance, he shared the story of his mother’s battle with cancer and how, after being given six months to live in 2009, she supplemented her chemotherapy with ‘Turkey Tail’ mushrooms. Today, Stamets said, she has “no detectable tumors whatsoever” and her case has been called by cancer journals as a “best case outcome.” Furthermore, he cited studies of the ‘lion’s mane’ mushroom which was shown to reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in laboratory mice. Stamets was also enthusiastic about the potential therapeutic applications for “magic” mushrooms, since research has indicated they help in treating alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder, calling them “medicines for the soul.”
Scientists from INRA and Lorraine University in France unraveled a key mechanism in the symbiosis between fungi and trees. During this mutually beneficial interaction, the fungus takes control of its host plant by injecting a small protein that neutralizes its immune defenses thereby allowing the fungus to colonize the plant. This finding is a major advance in our understanding of the evolution and functioning of symbiotic interactions between fungi and plants – relationships that play a significant role in supporting the health and sustainability of our natural ecosystems.
In the complex world of the rhizosphere – the soil surrounding plant roots – thousands of species of bacteria and fungi compete for resources released by plants. Some fungi, such as truffles and boletus, are able to live in symbiosis with plants through their roots, by-passing their competitors to obtain sugars directly from their host. In return, symbiotic fungi allow plant roots to absorb mineral nutrients; this improves the plant’s health, vigor and productivity. Mycorrhizal fungi are one class of symbiotic fungi that make their way to plant roots where they negotiate for housing and all-you-can-eat sugar services. But how does this negotiation play out? Is the host plant able to distinguish between beneficial and parasitic fungi? How does the fungus avoid the plant’s immune defenses during the interaction?