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Mycorrhizae and Agriculture

Submitted by bpmccarthy on Wed, 09/11/2019 - 16:42

Agriculture is a process that impacts everyone worldwide, yet most people do not consider the science that goes into efficient agriculture, not only in terms of crop yield but in the way that the farmland is used and how farmers maintain their crops. An important aspect of crop growth as well as the growth of many other plants, is the relationship that the plant has with mycorrhizae fungi. About 70% of plant species have a relationship with a type of fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM). These fungi take up residence in the roots of a plant and can provide the plant with essential nutrients for survival as well as water, and in return the plant supplies the fungi with the sugars that it produces. A paper I read today reviewed why farmers should consider the number and types of mycorrhizae that might reside in the soils being used for agriculture. Not only can the mycorrhizae improve the quality of the yield, they also contribute to soil structure as well as reduced nutrient loss in the soil. AM fungi have been shown to increase yields in crops such as potato and cassava, and intermediate response levels in cereals such as wheat. For these reasons, the paper argues that farmers should have more interest in managing the levels of mycorrhizae in the soil. Using products like fertilizers and fungicides can disturb the soil make-up and inhibit mycorrhiza growth, which can lead to poor soil quality and nutrients, which is not sustainable in long-term production of food. The goal of this paper is to bring forth the idea that when we reconsider how agriculture is practiced, we should take into account more than just increasing yields of crops. The soil, the relationships of biota within the soil, and their well-being are just as important for agriculture as obtaining high yields to feed the growing population.