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And the Prize for Best Performance by a Fungus Goes To...

There are more than 150 named types of mycorrhizal fungi (so far). Our inoculant products contain the spores of nine endo-types and seven ecto-types that have shown wide adaptability and match up to most plants. A couple types are especially well-suited for grape vines, as grapes are highly dependent on mycorrhizal fungi.

Wine grape vineyards routinely apply spores to new plantings, as a vine with the right type of mycorrhizae on its roots can uptake ten times or more nutrients and often comes into production a year sooner. A young vine without mycorrhizae grows very slowly if it even survives. Grape roots are really not designed to function effectively without mycorrhizal fungi.

During the 13 plus years that I have been working with these beneficial fungi, our customer feedback has been a good indicator of which other plant types also respond strongly to inoculation. A few observations:

Besides grapes, top small-fruit performers are strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. I wish we had available a product for blueberries, but they use an ericoid-type fungus that is not available as an inoculant as far as I know.

For tree fruit, cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums are extremely responsive. Apples and pears also benefit, but usually not as dramatically as the stone fruits. I recall one orchardist in eastern Washington who didn't treat one row as a test, and then called a couple months later to order more inoculant to help those trees catch up to the rest of the field.

All types of citrus need the fungi, while walnuts stand out among the nut crops, avocados and bananas among tropical fruits. Those growers with desert-type soils (like the Coachella Valley area in California, or Yuma, Arizona, for examples) will find that mycorrhizal fungi clump together sand particles to form a moisture-holding growing zone around each tree. This bio-zone greatly reduces water requirements as well as generating essential nutrients for the host trees.

The vegetables most benefited seem to be melons, older-variety tomatoes (newer varieties have been bred for chemical fertilization), peppers, beans, potatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Peas, carrots, and lettuce do not seem to rely as much on the fungi, although one hydroponic grower did report reduced lettuce root diseases after inoculation. Many of the competitive giant-pumpkin growers are regular customers. In general, I think that most plants that originated in tropical or desert areas tend to be much more mycorrhizae-dependent than those with northerly origins (because of more thinner and marginal soils?).

Roses are by far the strongest responding flowering plants, but chrysanthemums and geraniums are also up there. Most of our customers are food crop growers, so I do not get as many reports on ornamentals. However, landscapers and landscape architects are discovering the value of the spores for valuable transplants, flower beds, and turf grass areas. A middle-eastern country is currently testing our inoculant on an enormous landscaping project to see if they can improve on plant survival rates. I'm pretty sure they will see a big difference.

Pines and oaks simply cannot live without the fungus - period. Forest nurseries either introduce the fungus to seed beds or use a mycorrhizal root dip when setting out the seedlings.

It's interesting to hear from growers of many differing crops around the country who are successfully using mycorrhizal fungi and other living organisms to replace expensive and soil-damaging chemical fertilizers and fungicides; as well as from USDA and university researchers who are currently experimenting with the fungi in laboratory environments. I would expect that some of the most fungi-dependent types of plants, such as those listed above, will use mostly biological methods in the future for cost and environmental reasons, as well as producing superior plants.

Good growing, my friends,

Don Chapman
President, BioOrganics

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