Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Healthy fungi, healthy farms

Seed Daily: Farming practices have a significant impact on the diversity of beneficial microbial fungi known to play important roles in crop productivity, soil recovery and maintenance of healthy ecosystems, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Microbiology. The conclusions could have important implications for the way humans manage the agricultural landscape and tackle food security issues.

The study was led by Dr Christopher van der Gast at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), UK and Dr Gary Bending from the University of Warwick, UK. The research team investigated the distribution of important arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), at nine arable and horticultural farms in England, with soil collected from both organically and conventionally managed fields at each farm. The results of the study indicate that farm management has a significant impact on AMF richness, with organic farming shown to promote higher diversity relative to conventional farming.

AMF are a vital component of terrestrial ecosystems, representing a dominant microbial group in most soil habitats. Within the soil AMF form a mutually beneficial relationship with plant roots that is known to have a major impact on above ground ecology and productivity….

Dr. David Midgley grew and photographed this ericoid mycorrhizal fungus isolated from Woollsia pungens. (Taxon VI, see Midgley, Chambers and Cairney (2002) for details reference below). Midgley, D. J., Chambers, S. M. & Cairney, J. W. G. (2002). Spatial distribution of fungal endophyte genotypes in a Woollsia pungens (Ericaceae) root system. Australian Journal of Botany 50, 559-565, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

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