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Inoculate with Mycorrhizae - Nutri-Life Platform™

Monday, December 19, 2016
 

Inoculate with Mycorrhizae – Nutri-Life Platform ™

Mycorrhizal fungi have co-evolved with plants and soils for over 460 million years.  The bottom line is that mycorrhizal relationship is as common to the roots of plants as chloroplasts are to the leaves of plants.  Plants use leaves to fulfill their carbon needs and mycorrhizal fungi to attain nutrients and water.

Why is this important to farmers?  Cropping systems could be more sustainable with management of mycorrhizal fungi for increased yields and less reliance on agrochemicals.

We will explore methods and management that will restore, maintain and enhance mycorrhizal activity on the farm.

Mycorrhizal fungi are keystone species anchoring a truly healthy soil that contains a prodigious abundance of biological activity.  One heaping tablespoon of healthy soil may contain billions of soil organisms.  Just two grams can contain numbers of organisms equal to the earth’s entire human population.

This plethora of soil organisms equates to billions of miniature bags of fertility, each storing nutrients in its body tissue while slowly converting them into plant-available forms.

Just a review, ‘myco’ means ‘fungus’ and rhizae’ means root and so the word Mycorrhizae means fungus- roots.  In these mutually beneficial partnerships, the root of the host plant provides a convenient substrate for the fungus, and also supplies food in the form of simple carbohydrates.  In exchange for this free ‘room and board’ the mycorrhizal fungus provides several benefits to the host plant.  AM fungi form a beneficial symbiosis with the plant roots. In return for organic carbon from the plant, the AM fungi scavenge phosphorus from much more soil than is explored by the plants’ roots, and deliver it to the roots.

 Mycorrhizal (the plural is mycorrhazae) is an anatomical structure that results from a symbiotic association between soil fungi and plant roots.  In exchange for a ‘home’ the fungus provides numerous benefits to the host plant.

  1. Mycorrhizal fungi produce an extensive network of microscopic hyphal threads that extend into the surrounds soil or growing medium.  The group or mycorrhizal fungi that are most important to agriculture are called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMYCORRHIZAL FUNGI or sometimes endo-mycorrhizal fungi)  These fungi e vast majority of agricultural plants with the exception of canola, the cabbage family, spinach and sugar beets.  AMYCORRHIZAL FUNGI also form Mycorrhizae with a wide variety of wild and cultivated plants including most grasses, tropical plants and most fruit and nut trees.

RE-ESTABLISHING MYCORRIHAZAL POPULATIONS

If your soils have been repeatedly tilled or left fallowed or the inclusion of break crops, that do  not form AM symbioses, or if the root colonization analysis of your crop or pasture plants indicates low levels or absence of mycorrhizal colonization, you will find re-establishing and building effective populations can be relatively easy and cost effective.

Tillage also reduces the ability of the fungi to colonise roots and transfer phosphorus to the plants, because the fungal hyphae in soil are damaged by the soil disturbance. 

The fastest, most effective way to restore depleted mycorrhizal populations in croplands or pastures is to apply a Platform™ to the roots or seeds.

Nutri-Life Platform™ is a new inoculum from Nutri-Tech Solutions that combines AM and Trichoderma together in one breakthrough blend.  Applied to the seed at 50 gms per hectare it allows for the AM to colonise the roots as well as Trichoderma is a predatory fungi that assists with reducing pathogenic diseases in the soil.

Without                                   With Mycorrihizal 
Mycorrhizal Fungi                   Fungi
 “B” with Seed

Benefits are maximized when the mycorrhizal fungi colonises the roots as early in the plant’s life as possible.

In the perfect world, this is immediately after the seed has germinated and begun to sprout.  The active components in the inoculums are mycorrhizal fungi propagules in the form of spores and colonized root fragments.  When one of these colonizing units touches or comes into very close proximity of living root tissue, in this case the sprouted seed, they are activated by minute amounts of specialised root exudates and begin the mycorrhizal colonization process.

Within a brief period ranging from a few days to a few weeks, the newly colonised root cells begin to send hyphal threads from the young plant’s roots.  The hyphae then begin absorbing moisture and nutrients from the surrounding soil while warding off root disease pathogens via production of antagonistic exudates.   
These processes results in greatly improved chances for survival compared to non-mycorrhizal plants.  Almost immediately, the colonised sprout develops special “tools” to secure adequate moisture, nutrients and defense against fungal root diseases.  The hyphae quickly grow and spread through-out the surrounding soil, penetrating the tiny spaces between soil particles.  As they encounter more roots, these also become colonised.  Then, each of these roots produce more hyphae which, in turn colonise even more roots until a massive hyphal network has pervaded the expanded rhizosphere.

Clearly, inoculating seeds with Mycorrhizae is an effective way to go.  The benefits are the greatest and the cost is minimal, since treating a seed usually takes less inoculums than is required to colonise the larger root system or a more developed plant.

Seed treatment is best accomplished using either powdered or liquid mycorrhizal inoculants applied so that the inoculums adhere directly to the surface of the seed.  Powdered inoculants work well with hairy-textured seeds such as wheat, barley, oats, or many grass seeds.  Seed adhesion is important not only to insure inoculums proximity to the germinating seed, but because excess powder falling off the seeds can accumulate in the seed box, possibly leading to mechanical problems with the auger and drill operation of the planting equipment.

Liquid inoculums are often preferred for corn, beans, Lucerne and similar smooth-surfaced seeds because it will adhere well. 

Application to the seed can be achieved by lightly spraying liquid inoculums on the seed as it passes on the conveyor to the seed box on the planter. 

Often liquid inoculums can be applied to seed by mixing it with other seed treatments such as legume inoculants on beams, alfalfa and vetch –

YLAD Living Soils mix their proven seed treatment Seed Start with the Platform to create a complete seed dressing.

THE NEAR SEED EXPERIENCE - LIQUID INJECTION

Liquid mycorrhizal inoculums can be sprayed in-furrow along or with other liquids.  While this later technique does not inoculate the seed immediately upon germination, the young plants become colonised as their roots enter the treated bands.  This latter method often dovetails will with fertiliser or other planting applications.

GETTING TO THE ROOTS

Plants may also be treated after planting, including established crops and pastures.  This method of inoculating is quite common with vegetables.

Treating established crops is particularly worthwhile with perennial crops such as Lucerne in which a one-time inoculation will continue to deliver benefits over several years.  The amount of inoculant used to treat such a crop is greater (and therefore also the cost) but the advantages apply to multiple harvests.

Forage pastures are another excellent example whereby either a one-time or a few incremental applications can afford very long term benefits.

MINDING YOUR “P’S”

When applying a mycorrhizal inoculant at planting, it is important to avoid high levels of available phosphorus in the soil proximate to the target seed or roots.  Readily available soil phosphorus in excess of approximately 70 ppm can prevent the mycorrhizal spores in an inoculant from breaking dormancy when in near contact with a live root.  Since one of the primary natural functions of the mycorrhizal relationship is to access and mobilize phosphorus, the spores have been ‘programmed’ to delay activation in an abundant phosphorus environment.  The propagules are not harmed and do not expire under such circumstances, however they remain dormant and colonization does not commence until the ambient phosphorus levels diminish.  Insoluble forms of phosphorus that naturally occur in the soil do not contribute to this phenomenon.  Likewise phosphorus from organic or natural fertilisers such as soft rock phosphate, humates, fish fertilisers or kelp is not problematic.  It is the realty available phosphorus, derived primarily from soluble (liquid) or fast-release fertilisers that contribute to this situation. The solution is to avoid high rates of P starter fertilisers.  Remember that one of the primary reasons for high P in starter fertilisers is to overcompensate for the inefficiency of non-mycorrhizal roots.  Once crop plants become colonised with mycorrhizal fungi, these high P levels are no longer required.  Phosphorus fertillisers applied anytime 10 – 20 days after inoculation and colonization has occurred need not be restricted. 

NOTE:   however, due to the greatly improved phosphorus uptake efficiency imparted by the mycorrhizal association, amounts of P fertilisers needs for good crop performance may be noticeably reduced.

Trials in Eyre Peninsula soils have shown that wheat inoculated with AM fungi was highly colonised and that the fungi delivered up to 80% of the plant phosphorus.

HOW DO I KNOW THE MYCO IS WORKING?

How do you tell if an application of mycorrhizal inoculant is working?

  1. When trialing any change in program, be sure to leave a part of your crop untreated as a control.
  2. Often the effects of mycorrhizal colonization will be obvious in early growth.  The plants may be taller, have more foliage and larger root systems.  If water is scarce, you may note less moisture stress compared to controls.
  3. Sometimes the visual difference between the treated and control crop is less obvious but the yields are significantly better in the treated crops..  And occasionally, there will be no discernable difference at all.
  4. In this last circumstance, it may be that the benefits lie entirely in savings via reduced inputs to get the same yields as without treatment.  Capitalising on this may take some experimenting over several seasons.

MYCORRHIZAE MAINTENANCE

Once you have re-established Mycorrhizae on your crops, there’s not much that will remove them from the living roots, but there are a lot of things that will help them colonise quicker, more thoroughly and increase the density of the hyphal network.  What do compost, compost teas, no-till methods (with reduced chemical usage), humates, seaweed extracts and fish fertilisers have in common?  All of them, in diverse and various ways, increase the microbial activity in the soils, including the mycorrhizal fungi which then spread from root to root faster and further enhance the nutrient uptake efficiency of the colonised plants.’

Scientific research confirms that fallow, frequent tilling, erosion, compaction and high levels of soil phosphorus availability delay, reduce or eliminate the soils AM populations. 

Advancement in our understanding of mycorrhizal fungi and their requirements has led to the production of concentrated, high quality mycorrhizal inoculants such as Platform™.

The most important factor for re-integrating Mycorrhizae into the cropland environment is to place mycorrhizal propagules near seed or near the root systems of the target plants.

Ref:  Dr Mike Amaranthus

Whatever course you decide upon,

There is always someone to tell you

that you are wrong

There are always difficulties arising

which tempt you to believe

that your critics are right.

To map a course of action and follow it

to an end requires courage.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)