Dr. Mike’s News

Getting To The Root Of Improved Fruit And Vegetable Production

By: Lauren María Alexander (Excerpt from Growing Produce, September 2016)

Link to Original Article: http://www.growingproduce.com/vegetables/getting-to-the-root-of-improved-fruit-and-vegetable-production/

Taking a holistic approach to soil health is a key to increasing plant vigor and yields. High yields begin with healthy soil, and maintaining a proper balance between nutrients, microorganisms, and other compounds is an essential part of the soil health equation.

Mycorrhiza, which describes the symbiotic association between plants and a specialized root fungus, plays an important role in enhancing plant performance and growth.

Through this mutually beneficial relationship, mycorrhizal fungi colonize plants roots, enabling the roots to access nutrients and water that may otherwise be unavailable to plants.

Mike Amaranthus, founder of Mycorrhizal Applications, which focuses on the research and development of mycorrhizal inoculum for commercial use, explains exactly how these beneficial fungi work, and how you can use them to help improve overall plant health and increase yields.

What Are Mycorrhizae And How Do They Work?
According to Amaranthus, the relationship between mycorrhizae and plant roots has been active for approximately 460 million years, and between 85% to 90% of plants form this relationship in their natural habitat.

“It’s one of those relationships where both the plant and the fungus benefit,” Amaranthus says. “The mycorrhizae benefit the plant in allowing it to access nutrients and water that are essential for the plant’s performance and growth. In turn, the fungus depends on the plant for sugars from the plant roots, which give it the energy it needs to grow into the soil.”

The fungi act as “roots of the roots” and are fine threads that grow off of the roots themselves, Amaranthus says. They are especially important in the uptake of phosphorous, nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and other key micronutrients that may be bound up organically or on soil particles.

Weed, Disease, And Drought Benefits
Not all plants form mycorrhizal associations, including crops such as kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, canola, mustard, and sugar beets. But on the plus side, some of the world’s worst weeds do not form mycorrhizal associations either, Amaranthus says.

“Weeds come in following a disturbance in the soil, and disturbances knock out the mycorrhizae. Without mycorrhizae, the weeds get a competitive advantage and are better able to access phosphorous in the soil. If mycorrhizal fungi are established, you can help starve weeds of phosphorous,” he explains.

Regarding disease resistance, Amaranthus says that like many other fungi, mycorrhizae produce antibiotics, which are capable of deterring root pathogens. They also have the capacity to selectively transport salt and toxic compounds away from plant roots.

“They depend on the roots for their energy source, so they want to keep the roots healthy, active, and growing. For this reason, the salt and the toxic compounds don’t get translocated to their cells,” he says.

Mycorrhizae’s benefits include drought protection due to roots’ improved ability to extend further into the soil to access water.

“Mycorrhizal roots are a lot spongier because they can get more water out of the soil, and they store them in specialized cells. They’re also much thinner so they can get into the small spaces in the soil where water is being held,” Amaranthus says.

A study Amaranthus conducted that was repeated by the University of California, Davis in 2013 showed almond trees inoculated with mycorrhizae experienced a 60% reduction in plant moisture stress.

“Some of the studies have demonstrated six or seven days of growth in drought situations,” he says.

Application Methods
Mycorrhizae can be applied to the soil in granular, powder, and liquid forms.

“We grow the seeds of the mycorrhizae, or what we call propagules. Mycorrhizal inoculums come in powder or granular forms. Growers can add water to the powder and add mycorrhizae in the liquid form near the seed, they can coat the seed with the powder, which puts the inoculum right where the roots come out of the seed, or they can band the granular material in furrow,” Amaranthus says.

To maintain populations, he says that any practice that fosters root growth will foster mycorrhizal development. Mycorrhizal development is most rapid when soil temperatures are between 40°F to 70°F and when soil fertility levels are moderate. Fumigation eradicates mycorrhizal development and re-inoculation should be at least two weeks following fumigants.

“With mycorrhizae, the bottom line for the end user is that they can get improved yields with less inputs. It’s a win-win situation,” Amaranthus says. “There’s an opportunity to save money, and it improves the efficiency of the plant’s ability to feed itself.”

Link to Original Article: http://www.growingproduce.com/vegetables/getting-to-the-root-of-improved-fruit-and-vegetable-production/ 

COPYRIGHT 2016 Growing Produce

Working with Rather than Against the Biology in the Soil

An old African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

When it comes to how we treat soil…We need to go far and quickly.

The Mycorrhizal Applications website is about tools to improve rather than degrade soils. It is about working with rather than working against the biology in the soil. You will find helpful articles, pictures and video that demonstrate what mycorrhizal are and how they function as well as helpful tips on using inoculum effectively.

This type of information has never been so important. Our soils are being lost and degraded at a record pace. The escalated use of certain chemicals, erosion, land clearing, and compaction has had a devastating effect on beneficial living organisms in the soil. Globally, 4 billion acres are significantly degraded. The global urgency to produce food and fiber is not expected to lessen. By 2030 our planet is expected to support 8.3 billion people. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that by then, farmers will have to produce 30 percent more food than they do now to keep pace with hunger.

How do we increase plant productivity while fossil fuel supplies decline and costs escalate, restricting their use on the farm and landscape? And, how do we expand production when desertification, soil erosion, organic matter, water pollution and nutrient loss are on the increase? It is a paradox: precisely as we are increasing our demands on soil, we are losing it at an unprecedented rate.

The health of our soil crosses politics, ideologies, occupations, and national boundaries. The key step toward a solution is this: we must make a choice.
When it comes to soil, the choice is clear and makes economic and biological sense on several levels.

The good news about making a definitive choice to reestablish the natural biological functioning of soils is that it brings a wide array of collateral benefits. Soil erosion, nutrient acquisition, plant productivity, fruit and flower production, carbon sequestration, root growth, ground and surface water pollution are all affected by the activities of the soil food web, in particular the strength and vigor of the mycorrhizal populations. In addition land managers can cut their input costs while maintaining or increasing plant productivity.

Mycorrhizal fungi are no silver bullet but they play a critical role in the health and productivity of 90% of the world’s plant species in natural areas. New technological breakthroughs enable us to use these beneficial organisms to improve soils on managed lands as well.

Each of us as individuals has a part to play with the actions we take on our own farm, field, nursery, landscape and restoration project. Mycorrhizal inoculation technologies are not a pie in the sky future possibility. They are here today. In 2009 Mycorrhizal Applications produced nearly a million pounds of mycorrhizal inoculum.

Thanks for visiting the Mycorrhizal Applications website. We hope you have an increased appreciation of soil biology and a greater awareness of its connections to major challenges we confront.

Call us anytime toll free at: 866-476-7800


Dr. Mike Amaranthus

Dr Mike on: Economics of Inoculation & the Best Way to Apply

The decision to inoculate your plants with mycorrhizae often comes down to cost, so there are many things to consider. In general, it is most cost effective time to inoculate is very young plants where the average cost can be less than a penny per plant. Larger plants require more inoculum so costs are proportionately greater. Applying mycorrhizal inoculum at seeding can greatly reduce the cost per acre for treating crops.

Another important consideration is to learn which type of mycorrhizal fungi occurs with your plant species. A list of plants with their mycorrhizal associates can be found at this website or, better yet, contact a mycorrhizal specialist to make sure that you select the proper type of inoculum (866-476-7800).

The next decision is what type of inoculum to buy and how best to apply it. Spore-based inoculums have the most options. The least expensive inoculation method is to apply liquid or powdered inoculum to seeds. Incorporating mycorrhizal inoculums into soil or growing media also works well. Mycorrhizal inoculums come in three formulations (powder, liquid, or granular) and the choice will depend on the needs of the grower and the application equipment available.

Here is one important consideration regarding cost-benefit ratios. When evaluating the use of mycorrhizal inoculums, it’s tempting to consider only the benefits of increased plant growth or yields. Instead, try to account for all the cumulative mycorrhizal benefits including reduced costs for water or fertilizer, better germination or survival, increased soil carbon levels, or improved soil structure — if each incremental benefit contributes 5% to 10%, the combined benefits can total 20 to 40%.

What things can’t we do without?

A.  Automobiles      See full size image

B.   iPod    

C.  Cell Phones  

D. Computer    See full size image

E.  Mycorrhizal Fungi      bw-roots

If you picked E. then you got it right.  In today’s modern world we may find it difficult to live without our cell phones I-pods, computers, and automobiles.  While these material goods often seem indispensable; it is clean air, clean water, and nutritious food that are the unconditional requirements for human survival.

There is a connection that makes clean air, water and healthy food possible, all three are dependent upon the activities of mycorrhizal fungi.

We invite you to learn more about this amazing group of fungi and how they shape your world at our website


Dr. Mike

What if we changed how we grow our food?

What if …. We changed how we grow our food?

“In times of change learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to work in a world that no longer exists.”   Eric Hofer Author

Here is what we are learning.  The fact is the rate of increase in food production has slowed drastically in recent decades.   A big concern is what we are learning about the true cost of growing food.  A growing body of published evidence by the world’s leading research institutions indicates many agriculture practices are degrading soils, spreading toxic chemicals, contributing to global warming, rendering water unfit to drink, reducing biodiversity, and creating dead zones where chemical runoff reaches lakes and oceans.

The truth is our food production system is subsidized by non-renewable resources, by dangerous chemicals, and by depleting the production capacity of million-year-old topsoils.

It is tempting to point fingers and name names.  But Agriculture’s role in our global ecological crises is not a subversive plot caused by government officials, fertilizer or fuel salespeople, farmers or grocery shoppers.  Rather it is a conscious choice regarding how we grow our food.

Farmers are working harder and learning more than ever about ways to feed a growing global population in a sustainable way.  What we need is to get back to our roots:  Literally.  Deep long-lived perennial roots and associated arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) have played key roles in the sustainablility of our natural areas for millions of years.  AMF form a beneficial relationship with approximately 80% of the world’s plant species in their natural habitat. Perennial roots and their associated AMF efficiently absorb water and nutrients deep within soil, prevent drought stress and the off site leaching of pollutants.  Perennial roots and AMF protect soils from erosion and put carbon in the ground where it promotes plant growth instead of the air where it promotes global warming.

Large areas of our nations croplands have lost their mycorrhizal populations.  Tilling, fallow, erosion, and the use of certain chemical fertilizers have diminished populations of Mycorrhizal fungi.  AMF have been fundamental for plant growth for 460 million years in our natural ecosystems and have promoted the productivity and stability of our natural areas without irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified seeds.  How do they do it.?   Miles of tiny fungal filaments can be present in a thimbleful of healthy soil.  These tiny filaments access, absorb and transport nutrients from the bulk soil to their plant hosts.

Organizations, like The Land Institute, in Salinas Kansas have worked for over 30 years on the problem of agriculture from the ground up. Their purpose is to develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the perennial prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops. Their specific research is an innovation for agriculture, using “nature as the measure” to develop mixed perennial grain crops as food for humans. Over 75 percent of human calories worldwide come from grains such as wheat and corn, but the production of these grains erodes soil and pollutes our waters. Perennial grain crops with deep and abundant root systems and AMF would improve soils  and waters instead of degrade them.

This evokes lots of “what if” questions about the future of agriculture for the learners among us:

What if Agriculture emulated nature instead of subdued nature?

What if Agriculture improved soil productivity instead of degraded it?

What if the roots and mycorrhizae of agricultural plants anchored and enriched soils?

What if the roots and mycorrhizae of agricultural plants help protect crops from drought?

What if the roots and mycorrhizae of agricultural plants added organic matter to soils instead of depleted it?

What if Agricultural crops had the efficiency and resilience of native ecosystems?

What if Agricultural crops produced nutritious food without subsidies of fossil fuels and without degrading water quality?

What if ….    We changed how we grow our food?

Dr. Mike

President Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc.

*Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc with over 32-years of experience with the use of Mycorrhizal fungi, has helped develop a new concept in the growing of plants, participated in a comprehensive research agenda, ran experiments to see how best to use AMF, lectured to scientists and growers all over the world.  Mycorrhizal Applications has raised millions of pounds of mycorhizal fungi and is dedicated to customers and their needs to produce plants using  both economically and ecologically sound methods.

An Agricultural Opportunity

From the food we eat, to the air we breath, to the clothes we wear, humans depend upon the thin covering of the earth’s surface we call soil. Arguably this thin and fragile layer of living topsoil is the Earth’s more critical natural resource.  Lately there has been tremendous interest from farmers about using soil biology to increase crop yields while protecting and improving our valuable soil resource. See video link: How can you biological enhance degraded soil? Experts speak.

With the increase in world population and the global demand for food, as well as an accelerated interest in feedstocks and biofuel production, a change toward more sustainable biological farming methods are being adopted by farmers. Worldwide fertilizer costs over the past four years have increased dramatically and farmers may be finding themselves relying less on synthetic chemicals to grow crops. Mycorrhizal inoculation as a great solution to more efficiently use fertilizers in their soils. Farmers are finding that they can reduce their fertilizer and water costs up to 30% and increase their yields by inoculating with MycoApply®  Mycorrhizal inoculum.

For example, recent harvest results of a MycoApply® rice trial conducted by Lance Benson agronomist in side by side 75 acre blocks in the Sacramento Valley, showed that the MycoApply® treated field yielded 8% more grain than the control field- an extra $173 / acre and a ten-fold return over the cost of the Mycorrhizal inoculum. In a 2010 study in California, Barley Brew seed inoculated with MycoApply® Micronized Endo had a 29% increased yield compared to control areas.  MycoApply® inoculated plots averaged 7,778 pounds compared to 6,030 pounds in control areas.  The MycoApply® inoculated stand was at least 6 inches taller than control and brought in an extra $145 per acre.  In Wisconsin at Gagas Farms, Inc., soybeans  were inoculated with MycoApply® Liquid Endo. Yield was significantly increased in three replicated plots by over 9%.

See video link for how mycorrhizal inoculation increases farm yields and decreases costs?

Everyone here at Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc is committed to making a difference. That is why we offer:

  • Largest selection of diverse species commercially available
  • Custom blends and formulations
  • Multiple delivery forms including: powders, gels, soluble, liquid and granular
  • Exclusive multi-species formulations
  • Continual new product development

Our objective is to provide the highest quality Mycorrhizal inoculum, economically, and in the best form to meet the needs of our customers.

Thanks for your interest in the living soil!

Dr Mike

A love connection: Your plants and mycorrhizal fungi

Dr. Mike Amaranthus
President Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc.

Growers of all types are becoming increasingly aware of the “connection beneath their feet” including a group of beneficial soil organisms that improve plant performance- the Mycorrhizal fungi. The world of science first reported the mystery of mycorrhizal fungi in 1885, but these fungi have been in a joint venture with plants since they schemed their way from the ocean to the mainland. Mycorrhizal literally means fungus (myco) and root (rhiza) and refers to the combination of fungus and root that is pre-eminent with plants in their natural habitats. Fossils of roots over 460 million years old contain mycorrhizae (plural for mycorrhiza) much as they look today. Mycorrhizae are among the most important symbiotic relationships on the planet and around 90% of all plants are from genera that dominately form mycorrhizae in their native habitats. In real terms, mycorrhizae are as common to the roots of plants as chloroplasts, the energy centers on the leaves of plants.

So what is the big deal about this special group of fungi? The fungus helps the plant extract nutrients and water from the soil, and the plant repays the kindness providing sugars produced by photosynthesis. The team of fungus and plant is such a winner that nature has several versions, with several kinds of fungi and almost every kind of plant. In the most common kind of mycorrhiza, the fungus belongs to a group of inconspicuous soil dwellers and forms a structure called an arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM). The next most common kind combines a mushroom puffball, truffle or related type of fungal fruiting body, and forms a fungal sheath that is evident on the exterior of the absorbing roots. This combination is called an ectomycorrhiza (EM) and common to oaks and conifers. Other kinds of mycorrhiza resemble these to a greater or lesser degree, and usually are confined to a family or related group of higher plants. Special types of mycorrhiza are found in the heather and orchid families, for example.

What does the mycorrhizal symbiosis do for the plant? There are thousands of published research studies on the benefits of mycorrhizae and one thing we are sure of is that mycorrhizal plants are far better than non-mycorrhizal plants at mining nutrients and water from the soil. Better nutrient and water absorption leads to a significant increase in growth rate. Published studies of mycorrhizal plants indicate that plants grew from 20% to several times the size of the non-mycorrhizal controls and positively influenced plant yields and quality. This “growth response” is only the most obvious benefit. Other benefits, appear unrelated to nutrition, such as improving soil structure.

I WELCOME YOU TO OUR WEBSITE! Learning about the role of mycorrhizae and the conditions that promote or deter their presence in the soil is a first step toward more productive plants and healthier landscapes. The next step is to add the fungi to the root zone when planting or transplanting. This is particularly important when restoring soil that was stripped of millions of years worth of nutrient and microorganism accumulation during construction, tillage, fallow or other major disturbances. If you feed the soil with mycorrhizal inoculum and protect these soil organisms from major disturbances and toxins, they will, in turn, feed your plants better than any method we have ever developed—and with so little effort on your part! The turf, flowers, grains, vegetables, fruit and berries that emerge from successful growing operation are part a fungal “love connection” that exists just beneath your feet.

Dr. Mike Amaranthus

Nature’s planting tool

“Mycorrhizal spores and spores in roots (arrrows)”    

Dr. Mike Amaranthus
President Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc.

I used to visit natural areas and wonder how these areas stayed so productive and healthy.  Take a redwood stand for example: the trees can be 300 feet tall, 1,000 years old and 10 feet in diameter and they have never been artificially fertilized or irrigated.  How do they do it?  A living soil provides us with the template.  Soils in natural areas are teeming with life and the most prolific group of organisms that associate with plants are the Mycorrhizal fungi. The effect of the mycorrhizal relationship on the root system is dramatic.  Most of the absorbing area of the root system are mycorrhizal threads or hyphae.  Hyphae are much thinner than roots or root hairs and are able to grow in the tiniest pores in the soil.  As a result, the efficiency of the plant’s nutrient and water uptake is increased several hundred to several thousand times.

You would be surprised to know that, in many cases, soil contains an abundance of nutrients but delivery to the plants itself is limited.  Mycorrhizae are particularly important in mobilizing nutrients in the soil and transporting them back to the plant. In exchange, the mycorrhizal fungus gets sugars produced from the leaves, the plant’s solar- powered energy factories.  The plant is providing the energy for the fungus to do its job and to propagate its spores for the next generation of mycorrhizae.

Can’t I just fertilize?

Many fertilizer regimens push plant top growth at the expense of root development, making plants vulnerable to stressful environments. Frequent, high levels of fertilizer produce an unbalanced and often unsustainable plant shoot-to-root ratio. Mycorrhizae, on the other hand, feed plants and stimulate root growth. Mycorrhizae perform numerous functions related to plant establishment that fertilizers do not. Fertilizers cannot maintain healthy roots, improve soil structure, water uptake or promote other beneficial microbes. In fact, fertilizers often negatively affect these factors.  Excess fertilizers can lead to other side effects, such as deterioration of water quality, soil structure and excess soil salinity. The mycorrhizal relationship improves feeder-root production, and a mycorrhizal plant can better utilize added fertilizer.

Fresh approaches for fresh water

The human need for fresh water is growing faster than nature can provide.  It’s quickly becoming one of the key resource issues of the 21st century. How do natural areas provide for such luxuriant plant growth without irrigation? One important way is that mycorrhizal threads attached to the roots of colonized plants scour the soil resource absorbing water during periods of adequate soil moisture, retaining water during periods of drought.  Natural areas have achieved a level of drought tolerance that far exceeds agricultural or urban areas in part because an enormous web of mycorrhizal threads act as a sponge protecting plant communities from extreme moisture deficits.

The mycorrhizal threads are much thinner than roots and can penetrate into the small soil pores and access pools of water that are unavailable to thicker roots.  An extensive body of research has documented the importance of the mycorrhizal relationship for efficient water use and drought protection for a wide array plants.  The growing cost and declining quality of water are formidable issues facing agricultural and urban areas today.  Using mycorrhizal fungi to improve water use efficiency and decrease water input costs is a tool available to everyone.

How do I use mycorrhizal fungi?

Mycorrhizal fungal inoculants are sold as spores, the “seeds” of fungi. This spore material includes spores both outside and inside of roots, as seen in the picture above.   An important factor is to get the mycorrhizal spores near the root systems of target plants. Inoculum can be attached to seed, incorporated at the time of transplanting, mixed with soil materials, watered-in or injected into the porous soil profile. Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc. MycoApply® products come in concentrated granular, powder and liquid forms. The form and application of the mycorrhizal inoculum depends upon the needs of the applicator. Root activity stimulates the Mycorrhizal spores to germinate, find a nearby root, and form the mycorrhizal relationship. Mycorrhizal Inoculums containing diverse specially selected mixtures of species of mycorrhizal fungi often give the best response. This improves performance across a variety of plant, soil, and climatic conditions. Inoculation is easy, inexpensive, and requires no special equipment.

Learning about the role of mycorrhizae and the conditions that promote or deter their presence in the soil is a first step toward using Nature’s planting tool. This is particularly important when restoring soil that was stripped of millions of years worth of nutrient and microorganism accumulation during construction or cultivation. If you feed the soil with mycorrhizal inoculum and protect these soil organisms from major disturbances and toxins, they will, in turn, feed and protect your plants better than any method we have ever developed—and with so little effort on your part!  It’s nature’s planting tool.

SyMyco, Inc.

SyMyco, a newly created joint venture between Symbiotic Sciences of New Delhi, India, and Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc. has established its first laboratory facility in St. Louis, Missouri. SyMyco Inc. has been formed with the intent to combine the production expertise of Symbiotic Sciences and the technical and market experience of Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc. to introduce a superior yet cost effective mycorrhizal based product.

Ecology AND Economy – We live in challenging times

The planet’s population is projected to grow by another 2 to 3 billion people by 2050 and many studies indicate that the demand for food is likely to double.  It is also expected that living standards will improve and people will eat more, especially meat.  The use of croplands for bio-fuel production creates additional challenges, including competition for farmland. Genetic crop modification brings its own issues, including environmental concerns, and has so far failed to increase production as promised.

Historically, the essential combination of agricultural innovation and hard work has been able to consistently feed a growing, more prosperous human population.  However serious challenges loom ahead, threatening further expansion.

Agriculture accounts for an estimated 70% of the world’s consumption of fresh water and produces 35% of its greenhouse gas emissions.  Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution derived from fertilizers has compromised surface and ground water quality and created massive dead zones in oceans and lakes. While agricultural fertilizers have played an essential role in feeding the world, much of the applied fertilizers runs off, failing to nourish our crops.  Soil erosion, land clearing, farming on marginal lands, water pollution and chemical overload have positioned agriculture production among the world’s primary environmental threats.

Clearly, we can do better.

It’s time to look to successful natural relationships for solutions to global environmental problems.  For example, mycorrhizal fungi can be used to greatly increase the effective rooting capacity of plants which translates into more efficient use of fertilizers, water and ultimately, less money out of people’s pockets.  In a world where the price of both fertilizers and water are increasing while supplies diminish, it just makes plain sense to develop an extensive and efficient root system.  When environmental stewardship and practical economics become compatible, it is a win-win. At Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc, we help your plants grow better…naturally.

Dr. Mike