Plants for millions of years have depended on the mutually beneficial association with the mycorrhizae fungi. This symbiotic relationship has been observed for almost every plant in its natural habitat.
The association has been known to aid plants in water and nutrient absorption from the soil.
As a reminder, mycorrhizae, as the name depicts, is a fungus and the root of a plant. “Myco” means fungus, and “Rhizae” means root. There are mainly two types of mycorrhizae, the endo mycorrhizae and the ectomycorrhizae.
The endo mycorrhizae are also called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. They are the more important of the two types since they associate with most plants, over 90%.
These fungi are usually naturally present in the soil. But heavy agricultural practices like repeated tillage and long farrowing may have depleted them. It is then necessary to add these important fungi to the soil; here is how.
Getting The Mycorrhizae To Add
It has been said that arbuscular mycorrhizae are the best option. How and where then do you get these lovelies? There are commercial inoculants of these fungi on sale.
These inoculants are available in diverse forms such as granules, liquids, and powder.
The inoculants are mainly composed of either mycorrhizal spores, colonized root fragments, or viable hyphae. Sometimes already inhabited roots of some plants can be used to add the mycorrhizae to the soil.
There are methods through which you can make your own inoculant without having to buy the commercial ones. That is a subject for another time.
Let us now consider the ways through which you can add the commercial mycorrhizal inoculant to the soil.
Ways Of Adding Mycorrhizae To The Soil
Irrespective of the mycorrhizal inoculant form, it is best added when the root is still young. The early root colonization will allow the plant to benefit from the association maximally.
Seed Application Method
This is the best method for adding mycorrhizae to the soil. The inoculant is added to the seeds before planting. This will allow the roots to be colonized as early as possible, resulting in a closed knit relationship.
As the seeds germinate, the spores or colonized root fragments begin the colonization at the contact of living root tissue. Within weeks, the mycorrhizal association will be established.
The seed application method is done by treating the seeds with the inoculant. It is powdered, and the liquid forms of the inoculant are best used. The granular form of the inoculant can also be used while planting the seeds.
A few portions of the granules is added into the planting furrows along with the seed. This achieves similar results as the seed treatment methods with the liquid or powdered forms.
Take the following steps to do the seed treatment with the mycorrhizae inoculant.
- Decide the best form of inoculant for your seed, either the powdered or liquid (seeds with hairy surfaces like oat, barley, wheat, etc. can be treated with the powdered form).
- If the inoculant is water-soluble, dissolve about ¼ teaspoon in a gallon of water.
- Spray the seeds lightly with the liquid inoculants or mix a few portions of the inoculant with other seed treatment liquids.
- You can alternatively soak the seeds in the inoculant and water mix for about 24 hours.
- Add a tackifier to smooth seeds if you only have the powdered non-soluble inoculant.
- The powdered inoculant is sprinkled on the seed and mixed for even distribution.
- If you are using a seedbox, the powder can be sprinkled as the seeds are being placed.
When you have the granular form of the inoculant, it may be hard to do the seed treatment method. The fungi can be added after the seeds have been planted in several ways.
The mycorrhizal inoculants can also be added when seedlings are being transplanted.
For the transplant, you can rub the powdered, or a few granular inoculates on the root ball. The inoculants can also be poured at the base of the trenches before putting the seedlings.
After the transplanting, it can also be added in furrows near the base of the seedlings. The powdered form, granules, or liquid can be used in this case.
This will also allow the association to start early enough for practical benefits.
Established Plants Methods
For established plants, it is also possible to add mycorrhizae to the soil around them. Few granules can be dipped into the soil adjacent to the growing crop.
The roots will get inoculated and colonized as soon as they grow to that region. This may invariably require more volume of inoculants than the seed treatment method.
Soluble inoculants can also be used in solutions. They may be mixed with compost tea and applied to the soil. This method will be more effective for porous soil where the inoculant can easily percolate.
The mycorrhizae will establish the association as soon as they meet with root tissues in the soil. It is good to remember watering the soil after the spraying to enhance the percolation.
For an effective mycorrhizae result, it is essential to take note of some things.
- You should give the mycorrhizae time to get established before the use of fungicides. About three weeks
- It is best to use organic fertilizers at this time. Increased soluble nitrogen and phosphorus hinders the mycorrhizal association.
- Less tilling, more compost, humates, and fish fertilizers enhance the growth of the mycorrhizae.
You’re All Done
Whichever form of the mycorrhizae inoculate you have chosen to use, ensure it has not expired. It is now time to sit back and see the tremendous good that will come to your garden.
You are wondering how you can be sure the process is worth the try!
This is why you must leave a portion of your seed or seedlings or established plant untreated.
There should a control population of the plant so that you can well appreciate the worth. Once you have added the mycorrhizae well, you may not need to worry again. Once the mycorrhizae relationship is established, you are all done.