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A Closer Look At Spores

The first task for a company trying to sell microscopic mycorrhizal fungi is to explain to people that a fungus can actually be a big help to plants.  After that simple step is completed, then they need application instructions.


It's helpful to think of the fungi spores as tiny seeds.  Our inoculant products - - and MycoMinerals(tm) - - both use volcanic trace minerals as a carrier ingredient, which makes it possible to measure and control dosages of the dust-fine spores.  For example, a teaspoonful of our standard inoculant will have several dozen Endo-type spores that represent nine different types of the beneficial fungi.  One or more of the types will be well-suited to any combination of soil/plant/climate.


Our Landscape Inoculant adds seven different Ecto-type spores, so that planting crews can also use the same inoculant for pines, oaks, and other trees that do not match with Endo type fungi.  Our MycoMinerals(tm) also contains the 16 different types, but in lower concentrations because it is designed to be a general soil additive instead of an small-dose inoculant.


The strategic goal for using this sort of biological product is to get the spore-seeds in the soil near where plant roots will be growing.  Dormant spores are not affected by moisture or temperature and are quite durable, being able to wait patiently in the soil for years if need be.  They are like tiny bits of calcium that are programmed by nature to only activate when they somehow receive a chemical signal from a plant root growing nearby.  Then, the fungi quickly attach to the root, either in the outer layer of root cells (Endo-types) or form a sheath around the root (Ecto-types) and proceed to colonize the entire root zone (called the Mycorrhizosphere).


There are many different ways to place the spores in position, and any method will usually work.  Inoculant can be tilled in before planting, the powder can be scattered in planting holes for transplants or scratched into the top layer of soil for seeds (corn, beans), our micronized product can be added to hydroseeders or sprinklers, seedling trays can be drenched, seeds can be coated before planting, inoculant can be probed down to the root area of established plants, or we offer a clinging root dip for bareroot transplants that puts the spores right where the first new roots form.


Once a well-adapted fungi becomes established in a soil, there should be no need to ever re-apply to perennials (fruit trees, grapes, berries, lawns, ornamentals, etc.).  However, in a seasonal vegetable garden, if a plant has not been a fungi host for at least 120-150 days, then there may not be many mature spores (actually the fruiting body of Endo types) formed for the following year's plants.  This is why I like to sow Crimson Clover in among my garden crops, and also re-inoculate my "important" larger plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and melons each year - just to ensure quick colonization.  The clover acts as a longer-term host for the garden fungi, thereby generating more spores in the soil for next year's crops.


For larger-scale acreage, particularly for lower-value crops or turfgrass, it may not be economically feasible to apply heavy concentrations of the spores, so smaller dosages can be applied during the seeding process to get the fungi introduced evenly throughout the plot and then they will spread from one plant to neighboring roots.  Again, for crops that grow for 120 or more days there will be also be a very valuable "underground crop" of spores left behind for succeeding years.


So, ideally the moment that a seed sprouts in a field or garden, there will be some high-performance mycorrhizal fungi spores nearby that sense the new root and leap into action, bringing essential nutrients and moisture to support the seedling, which will become the lifeline plant host to the fungi.


A farmer or gardener that owns soil loaded with mycorrhizal fungi spores will have a relatively easy time growing productive and disease-resistant plants.  It's worth the effort to get top types introduced.


Going to seed,


Don Chapman


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