Impact of mycorrhizal fungus on growth of medicinal plants

Scientists evaluated the influence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (Rhizophagus intradices) on growth and polyphenol production of the two important and popular medicinal plants in Vietnam: Ehretia asperula Zoll. & Mor. and Solanum procumbens. Just look how Petiole helped them with their plant research!
by Maryna Kuzmenko | 5th April 2022 | 3 min read
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Introduction about Mycorrhizal Fungi

A mycorrhiza is a mutual symbiotic association between a fungus and a plant. In other words, Mycorrhizas are fungal associations between plant roots and beneficial fungi.

The synergy of mycorrhiza serves the following way.

Mycorrhizas grow in association with plant roots, and exist by taking sugars from plants ‘in exchange’ for moisture and nutrients gathered from the soil by the fungal strands. As a result, the mycorrhizas greatly increase the absorptive area of a plant, acting as extensions to the root system.

The term mycorrhiza refers to the role of the fungus in the plant’s rhizosphere, its root system. Mycorrhizae play important roles in plant nutrition, soil biology, and soil chemistry.

At the same time, it is important to highlight that the fungi effectively extend the root area of plants and are extremely important to most wild plants. However, the importance of mycorrhizal fungi is less significant for garden plants because the use of fertilisers and cultivation disrupts and replaces these associations.

What is Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi?

Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi is a symbiosis between plants and members of an ancient phylum of fungi, the Glomeromycota. It improves the supply of water and nutrients, such as phosphate and nitrogen, to the host plant. This fungus are widely recognized as the oldest and most widespread plant symbionts which occur in the soil of most ecosystems.

After millions of years of evolving with plants, AM fungi still are essential associates of many plants and play an important role in absorbing nutrients, regulating development, and enhancing plant resistance and tolerance to environmental stresses.

Importantly, up to 20% of plant-fixed carbon is transferred to the fungus.

If mycorrhization of roots is by any reason declined or not formed, plant productivity will be negatively affected.

The hyphae of the fungi act as extend root system with several times larger than root only, which helps roots to reach deeper and wider in soils to seek water and food. When colonize to plant roots, AM will form special structures (intraradical hyphae, arbuscules, vesicules) inside root cells for nutrient exchange.

Plants provide the fungi carbohydrates, and in turn, fungi support plants more water and minerals uptake from soils by their widespread hyphae.

Importance of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi as biofertilizer

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi constitute a group of root obligate biotrophs that exchange mutual benefits with about 80% of plants.

AM are considered natural biofertilizers, since they provide the host with water, nutrients, and pathogen protection, in exchange for photosynthetic products. Thus, AM are primary biotic soil components which, when missing or impoverished, can lead to a less efficient ecosystem functioning.

The process of re-establishing the natural level of AM richness can represent a valid alternative to conventional fertilization practices, with a view to sustainable agriculture. The main strategy that can be adopted to achieve this goal is the direct re-introduction of AMF propagules (inoculum) into a target soil. Originally, AMF were described to generally lack host- and niche-specificity, and therefore suggested as agriculturally suitable for a wide range of plants and environmental conditions. Unfortunately, the assumptions that have been made and the results that have been obtained so far are often worlds apart. The problem is that success is unpredictable since different plant species vary their response to the same AMF species mix. Many factors can affect the success of inoculation and AMF persistence in soil, including species compatibility with the target environment, the degree of spatial competition with other soil organisms in the target niche and the timing of inoculation. Thus, it is preferable to take these factors into account when “tuning” an inoculum to a target environment in order to avoid failure of the inoculation process. Genomics and transcriptomics have led to a giant step forward in the research field of AMF, with consequent major advances in the current knowledge on the processes involved in their interaction with the host-plant and other soil organisms. The history of AMF applications in controlled and open-field conditions is now long. A review of biofertilization experiments, based on the use of AMF, has here been proposed, focusing on a few important factors that could increase the odds or jeopardize the success of the inoculation process.

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