When fungi and plant roots work together, mycorrhizae is formed. This formation increases the nutrient and water uptake for plants, protects them from disease and creates an optimum growing environment.
THE CANNABIS CONNECTION
This function of fungi can be taken advantage of and used by growers to maximise the nutrient uptake of their plants. But how exactly does this relationship work? The key word here is “mycorrhizae”.
Mycorrhizae is a symbiotic alliance constructed of both a fungus and the roots of a plant. This mutualistic association is found throughout nature and is a fundamental part of soil life. By forming this relationship, the fungi and plants in question receive impressive benefits from one another, especially important when attempting to maximise the quality and quantity of marijuana yields.
The fungi receives constant access to the sweet bounty of carbohydrate sugars such as glucose and sucrose which are synthesised within the plant’s leaves, transported to the root system and across to its fungal sidekick. In exchange, the plant then reaps the benefit of the fungi’s superior abilities of absorbing water and nutrients from the soil in which they reside. This is due to the far larger surface area of the hyphae which are much finer than plant roots, making them much more effective at mineral extraction.
The fungi present can also make it easier for plants to access key building blocks such as phosphorous and nitrogen whichare paramount to optimal plant health, yieldsize and quality.
The formation of mycorrhizae also extends past nutrient uptake. This phenomena can also protect your plants against numerous threats that many growers face. Mycorrhizae plants show increased resistance to pathogenic microbial diseases that occur within soil. They are also better equipped at combating drought conditions that may occur, and are better at handling salt stress. They are also more resistant to certain toxicities that may occur in soils such as those with high metal concentrations.
CULTIVATING THIS SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
To “infect” your plant’s roots with mycorrhizae you can dip your seed or clone in packaged spores, or you can make your own. Cultivating your own mycorrhizae has the advantage of being significantly cheaper, better for the environment and way more fulfilling.
Examples that are easy to locate and cheap to purchase include maple syrup and fruit juice. A recommended mixing ratio is 10ml of carbohydrate source with one gallon of water. It is then important to keep plants well oxygenated to prevent unwanted fungal growth from taking place. Another option to consider when applying the carbohydrate source is to add some rock phosphate into your soil to augment the mycorrhizae formation. This will provide a good source of phosphorous for the fungi to break down and then supply to the plant. A good start to a healthy relationship.
Those preferring a somewhat easy method can always simply purchase a mycorrhizae forming product.. Another method of obtaining mycorrhizae for your beloved plants is to hike out into the forests and harvest some from the ground beneath your feet. Find an area of woodland away from any chemical or pollution exposure to minimize detrimental contamination. Clear a small area of vegetation and dig a few inches into the ground. Harvest the soil from the area you have chosen and repeat this process in different areas of the woodland for the sake of diversity. This mixture can then be combined with vermiculture, coir peat and compost in desirable ratios.
When planting, apply a layer of this mixture close to the surface, this will allow the virgin roots of the plant to pass through the fungus, become acquainted with its new ally and start to form the desired symbiotic mycorrhizae.
Instead of purchasing a packaged inoculant, you can use naturally occurring fungus from your yard or any forest.
Find a bush or tree (except pine or oak), and clear about two square feet of vegetation (grasses) under it. Dig down 10 inches deep and save the soil. For an optimal population of mycorrhizae, do this under several trees and/or shrubs for a wider sample.
Mix this soil with one part coir peat, one part vermiculite and one part compost. Don’t add any extra fertilizers or compost; too much additional phosphate from any source prevents mycorrhiza from growing.
Place this soil into a plastic-lined pit (with holes for drainage) or garden pot. You need to plant a combination of grass (maize, sorghum, millet, oats or wheat) or an allium (onion, leek) with a legume, such as alfalfa or clover. Soak the seeds overnight and plant them close together, alternating the two species. Don’t fertilize the soil, only water with a normal schedule as much as the plants need.
After three months, the mycorrhiza colony should be fully developed, and it’s time to harvest. Ten days before you want to harvest, cut the plants right at the stem and stop watering. As the plants die, the fungus goes into reproduction and starts to generate spores. After 10 days, pull up the roots from the old plants, chop them up and mix them back into your soil—your fungus spores are ready!
To take full advantage of the mycorrhizae in the soil, you need to make sure that your target host’s young roots pass through it. If you grow in a pot, put a one-inch layer of this soil under the first inch of normal soil. The new seedling’s roots will grow through this under-layer of fungus-infested soil and become infected with beneficial mycorrhizae. Alternatively, you can plant seeds into handful sizes of fungus soil placed in the ground.
Cannabis plants infected with mycorrhiza fungus require much less phosphate. If you add a fertilizer with too much phosphate, you run the risk of killing the mycorrhizae, which are very phosphate sensitive.