Nav: Home

Study: Underground fungal relationships key to thriving plants

October 28, 2019

For a plant to thrive, it needs the help of a friendly fungus--preferably one that will dig its way deep into the cells of the plant's roots.

Plants live in symbiosis with root-associated, or mycorrhizal, fungi. The fungi provide up to 80 percent of the nutrients and water a plant needs to grow, and the plants produce up to 30 percent of the photosynthate--a food substance made through photosynthesis--that the fungi need.

There are two main types of mycorrhizal fungi--arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal. An arbuscular mycorrhiza penetrates the cortical cells of the roots of a plant. Ectomycorrhizal fungi do not penetrate the plant's cell walls, instead forming a netlike structure around the plant root.

A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and co-authored by ecologist Stephanie Kivlin, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, shows that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are especially helpful to the plants they colonize.

"Mycorrhizal fungal associations below the ground are one of the largest influences on plant tissue nutrient concentrations," said Kivlin. "To optimize plant nutrition, we need to incorporate mycorrhizal associations into our agricultural and management frameworks."

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi increase plant nutrient concentrations in plant leaves, litter, and roots more than ectomycorrhizal fungi. The type of root-associated fungi present has more influence on a plant's nutrient levels than plant leaf traits or plant associations with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Kivlin's co-authors are Colin Averill from ETH Zürich, Jennifer M. Bhatnagar and Michael C. Dietze from Boston University, and William D. Pearse from Utah State University.

The study analyzed more than 17,000 trait observations from nearly 3,000 woody plant species in six categories that demonstrate how readily the plant uses nutrients: the nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations in green leaves, senescent leaves--leaves that are about to fall off or have recently fallen off--and roots. It looks at how mycorrhizal effects vary across environments, doing similar analyses in boreal, temperate, and tropical latitudinal zones.

The Kivlin Lab studies the effects of global change on the distributions, function, and ecosystem consequences of plant mycorrhizal fungal associations worldwide.

"The next steps are to understand if there is variation in nutrient acquisition among fungal species within each mycorrhizal group and how soil nutrient concentrations may interact to influence plant nutrient concentrations with global change," Kivlin said.
-end-
CONTACT:

Karen Dunlap (865-974-8674, kdunlap6@utk.edu)

Amanda Womac (865-974-2992, awomac1@utk.edu)

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related Fungi Articles:

Using fungi to search for medical drugs
An enormous library of products derived from more than 10,000 fungi could help us find new drugs.
Plants and fungi together could slow climate change
A new global assessment shows that human impacts have greatly reduced plant-fungus symbioses, which play a key role in sequestering carbon in soils.
Make fungi think they're starving to stop them having sex, say scientists
Tricking fungi into thinking they're starving could be the key to slowing down our evolutionary arms race with fungal pathogens, as hungry fungi don't want to have sex.
How plants react to fungi
Using special receptors, plants recognize when they are at risk of fungal infection.
Clostridium difficile infections may have a friend in fungi
The pathogen Clostridium difficile, which causes one of the most common hospital-acquired infections in the United States, may have accomplices that until now have gone largely unnoticed.
A 'crisper' method for gene editing in fungi
A team of researchers from Tokyo University of Science, Meiji University, and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, led by Professor Takayuki Arazoe, has recently established a series of novel strategies to increase the efficiency of targeted gene disruption and new gene 'introduction' using the CRISPR/Cas9 system in the rice blast fungus Pyricularia (Magnaporthe) oryzae.
Are no-fun fungi keeping fertilizer from plants?
Research explores soil, fungi, phosphorus dynamics.
How fungi influence global plant colonisation
The symbiosis of plants and fungi has a great influence on the worldwide spread of plant species.
Fluconazole makes fungi sexually active
Under the influence of the drug fluconazole, the fungus Candida albicans can change its mode of reproduction and thus become even more resistant.
Soil fungi secrete an antibiotic with antitumor activity
A team of scientists from I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University (MSMU) together with their colleagues isolated a peptide named emericellipsin A from soil fungi.
More Fungi News and Fungi Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#542 Climate Doomsday
Have you heard? Climate change. We did it. And it's bad. It's going to be worse. We are already suffering the effects of it in many ways. How should we TALK about the dangers we are facing, though? Should we get people good and scared? Or give them hope? Or both? Host Bethany Brookshire talks with David Wallace-Wells and Sheril Kirschenbaum to find out. This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News. Related links: Why Climate Disasters Might Not Boost Public Engagement on Climate Change on The New York Times by Andrew Revkin The other kind...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab