Mycorrhiza to the rescue

Hi Tom,
Will the below be of use?
Rupert

The FAO have stated that there are some 60 harvests left if soils are degraded at the current rate. To put this into figures, land area equating to a country the size of Syria is lost to cultivation every year by becoming exhausted, contaminated or desertified.

Recent research has shown that this disordered state can be reversed. Such processes that are involved may be unsuitable for the climatic desert but eminently suited to the overcultivated and otherwise marginalised soils on the edge of the great deserts.
The technology harnesses mycorrhiza, a number of strains of the fungal genus Glomus.  They occur naturally in all parts of the world and there are individual adaptations to cope with aridity, sodacity, acidity and many types of contamination. If you see in the desert a single tree growing, apparently without artificial irrigation, the most likely explanation is the colonisation of local mycorrhiza. The spores and propagules of this fungus invade the plant roots and feed on photosynthetic sugars which they abstract from the root cortex. The fungus then develops water seeking strands, ‘hyphae’ which develop into a huge mass, the ‘mycelium’. For an individual plant the mycelium can grow up to 700 times its root mass. On the surface of the hyphae there are bacteria which can process insoluble mineral fragments to provide the host plant with a steady stream of soluble plant nutrients. Phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium can all be supplied in this way.  The beauty of the system is its natural checks and balances. If the plant is stressed, the fungus becomes more active. Moreover there is a waste product, ‘Glomalin’, a glycoprotein which is deposited in the soil and a source of soil carbon. In other words mycorrhiza are not just enabling a plant to grow in a hostile soil but are actually bringing about its improvement and ultimate return to good heart.
Horticultural practitioners are learning to use mycorrhiza for the improvement of crops. At the moment it is being sold for forestry and orchards and a small amount for ornamental horticulture and landscaping. Inoculated plants are likely to need significantly less irrigation and probably no chemical fertliliser.
How successful is this system? you have only admire the giant Californian redwoods or a rain forest to appreciate the power of mycorrhiza.

My own company, Zander Corporation seeks to explore the properties of mycorrhiza by introducing them into a wide range of commercial crops, ornamental trees and forestry. In hostile environments some mitigation is made possible by employing organic sediments that have built up in boreal lakes over many years. The careful dredging of these sediments yields a double whammy- the restoration of the lakes to an ecologically desirable ‘oligotrophic’ regime in which fish can flourish (hence Zander, which we champion) and the literal kick-starting of the revegetation of the desert fringe.

Right now we have a project in the Arabian desert to support a plantation of 6.5 million olive trees, treating new transplants and retrotreatimg established trees with mycorrhiza. The nett result will be a business that is very significantly less dependent on chemical fertiliser and irrigation.
Rupert Bevan
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