Sunday, August 29, 2010

The role of mycorrhiza in the mineral nutrition of plants

Mycorrhiza is the association between fungi and the roots of higher plants. The term was introduced by the German scientist A.B. Frank in 1885 (Mengel and Kirkby, 2001). Mycorrhiza is considered as the most widespread association between microorganisms and higher plants. On a global scale, between 86% and 94% of plants are mycorrhizal (Brundrett 2009). All Gymnosperms as well as 83% and 79% of dicotyledonous and monocotyledonous plants, respectively, are mychorrhizal (Marschner 1995). Nonmycorrhizal plants can be found in stressed soil environments (very dry or saline, waterlogged, severely disturbed as in mining areas, infertile) or even in very fertile soils. Mycorrhizas (or mycorrhizae) are absent under all environmental conditions in the Cruciferae and Chenopodiaceae (Marschner, 1995). Generally, in root-fungus association the fungus is strongly or wholly dependent on the higher plant, whereas the plant may or may not benefit from the association. It is not also essential for plant survival except in some plants like orchids. Mycorrhizal associations are therefore either mutualistic, neutral, or parasitic depending on the circumstances although mutualism is the dominant type.

Groups of mycorrhizas
Two mycorrhizal groups according to how the fungal mycelium relates to the root structure:
a) Endomycorrhizas. The fungi live inside the cortical cells of the roots and also grow intercellularly. The best known type is the vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza (VAM). This is widespread in cultivated soils.
b) Ectomycorrhizas. This group of mycorrhiza occurs mainly on roots of woody plants and only occasionally on herbaceous and graminaceous perennial plants. Some temperate tree species like beech, oak, spruce and pine cannot survive without ectomycorrhiza (Schachtschabel et al., 1998). They form a sheath or mantle of fungal mycelium over the surface of fine roots. The hyphae penetrate into the intercellular spaces of the root cortex and it extends outward into the soil.

Role of mycorrhizas in the mineral nutrition of host plants
Mycorrhizas are very important in the uptake of nutrients such as P, N, K, Cu, Zn and Ca by plants especially in soils low in these nutrients. Since P is the most limiting nutrient in tropical soils, mycorrhizas are vital for improving P nutrition particularly for cultivated plants. External hyphae can absorb and translocate P to the host from soil outside the root depletion zone. The thin mycorrhizal hyphae (2-4 μm in diameter) are able to penetrate soil pores not accessible to the root hairs which are about five times larger than the hyphae (Kirkby and Mengel, 2001). For example, studies have shown that the heavily mycorrhizal root of cassava enables it to grow well in phosphate-deficient soils where other crops fail (Wild, 1993). Also, a long-term study at the National Abaca Research Center at VSU (Armecin and Geneston-Asio, 2004) has provided the first clear evidence that abaca plant (Musa textilis) is mycorrhizal although colonization was relatively low (18-22%). In alkaline soils, mycorrhiza can prevent iron and manganese deficiencies. Mycorrhizas are also known to protect the plant from soil borne pathogens.
Recently, Lambers et al. (2010) reported that terrestrial plants (except epiphytes, parasites and carnivorous species) acquire most mineral nutrients from the soil primarily via two pathways: 1) direct absorption through the roots, and 2) indirect absorption through symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi. The majority of plants can take up phosphorus via both pathways but depend primarily on mycorrhizal fungi to acquire phosphorus.


Armecin RB and LG Asio. 2004. Effects of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi inoculation on Abaca (Musa textilis). Unpublished research report. NARC, VSU, Baybay, Leyte.
Brundrett, M. 2009. Plant and Soil 320: 37-77.
Lambers H, MC Brundrett MC, JA Raven and SD Hopper. 2010. Plant and Soil 334:11-31.
Marschner, H. 1995. Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants. 2nd ed., Academic Press, London.
Mengel, K. and E.A. Kirkby. 2001. Principles of Plant Nutrition (5thed.). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 849pp.
Schactschabel P., H.P. Blume, G. Brümmer, K.H. Hartge and U. Schwertmann. 1998. Lehrbuch der Bodenkunde (14th ed.). Ferdinand Enke Verlag, Stuttgart, 494pp.
Wild, A 1993. Soils and the Environment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 287pp.

Photo Sources:
1. G. Quinn at
2. Nathan Brandt, Iowa State University Extension News at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we wish to use this type of fungi to fertilize our tree plantation as part of the company rehabilitation plan. can you help us on this? is there any stock for sale? thanks a lot

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