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Endomycorrhizal Benefits for Professional Growers and Horticulturists

Endomycorrhizal fungi (also known as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, or AMF) are beneficial microscopic organisms that live in the soil and have evolved a symbiotic relationship with approximately 85% of the world’s plant species over the past several hundred million years.  These fungi predate the evolution of terrestrial plants, and it was the partnership with mycorrhizal fungi that allowed plants to begin to colonize dry land and create life on Earth as we know it.

How does this relationship between beneficial fungus and plants work?

The AMF symbiotic relationship centers on the plant’s ability to produce carbohydrates through photosynthesis and share some of these sugars with the fungus in return for otherwise unavailable water and nutrients that are sourced from the soil or growing media by the extensive network of mycelial hyphae produced by the fungus.  It’s a two-way relationship of sharing resources between two species, thus a classic symbiotic mutualism.  The endomycorrhizal fungi rely on the plant, and the plant’s performance and survival are enhanced by the fungus.

How is this symbiotic relationship established?

Endomycorrhizal fungi can colonize plants from three main sources of inoculum: spores, colonized root fragments, and vegetative hyphae.  Collectively, these inoculants are called “propagules,” and this is the standard unit of measure that is listed on most commercially available mycorrhizal products.

To colonize plant roots, these propagules must be present in the substrate and in close proximity to actively growing roots of a compatible plant.  The growing root tips emit root exudates as they push through the substrate, which signal the fungi to colonize the roots and establish the symbiosis.  Once the roots are colonized, then the process is self-sustaining as the vegetative bodies of the AMF ( the fungal mycelium) continue to grow with the plant’s root system and additional spores and hyphae are produced.

To inoculate plants grown professionally or in a home garden, AMF propagules can be incorporated into the substrate prior to or during planting or they can be top-dressed on the surface and watered into a porous substrate.  They can also be applied as a dip or slurry at the time of sticking a cutting, seeding, or at the time of transplanting.  The propagules can also be applied as a drench to the soil and watered-in, applied to the outer surface of the rootball before transplanting, or used in transplant hole and backfill soil.

How can professional growers utilize this symbiosis?

The application rates for endomycorrhizal fungi are based upon the number of propagules per volume of soil for container-grown plants and per area of coverage for turf and landscape plantings.  Therefore, large containers will require more propagules than smaller containers.  For a professional grower, it is more cost-effective to treat plants early in the crop cycle when they are growing in smaller volumes of soil, and will require fewer propagules per plant to achieve colonization.  Germination of the spores occurs relatively quickly after contact with growing roots, but full colonization of the roots can take several weeks.  Plants will reap the full benefits of the colonization within 6-8 weeks after application.  Some plant species will demonstrate the benefits of mycorrhizal colonization sooner than others.

The mycorrhizal fungi colonize the developing roots by growing into the plant’s root cells to obtain carbohydrates and simple sugars (food).  The tiny fungal mycelial threads grow throughout the available soil volume and effectively “mine” the soil for water and nutrients that the plant cannot access or absorb on its own.  The enhanced water uptake helps the plant to resist drought conditions and ensures faster plant response if its roots are damaged by adverse conditions (drought, water-logged conditions, high salts or high soil temperatures).  The mycelium also secretes organic compounds that help solubilize nitrogen, phosphorus and other macro- and micronutrients from the substrate.  These nutrients are actively transported by the fungus to the plant to produce proteins and other components needed for vigorous growth and development.

How it Works Diagram

Why do horticulturists and professional growers need mycorrhizal fungi?

With traditional input-intensive growing protocols, nursery or greenhouse grown plants are produced under optimum conditions and may be able to perform sufficiently in the short-term, without the assistance from mycorrhizal fungi.  However, water restrictions in production and landscapes will encourage growers and consumers to be water-wise and utilize mycorrhizae as part of our water management programs and promotions.  Trials have demonstrated that the use of mycorrhizae can reduce water requirements significantly by increasing the plant’s ability to utilize and store water through the AMF mycelial network of hyphae.  Consequently, retailers and growers have realized reduce shrinkage due to drought and stressful conditions in the retail chain.

There is additional pressure to reduce the runoff of nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, from nurseries, greenhouses, and landscapes.  Both of these essential plant nutrients are accessed and delivered to the plants by mycorrhizal fungi, and in many instances these inputs can be reduced significantly by utilizing AMF without a noticeable reduction in crop time, appearance, or performance.

Excess water usage results in more runoff and excess fertilization results in more pollution of the environment.  Many conscientious growers welcome beneficial biological solutions like mycorrhizal fungi to help reduce these environmentally harmful growing techniques, and this type of technology is becoming a major part of the toolkit to increase the overall environmental sustainability of the horticulture industry in the long run.

Are professional endomycorrhizal products available for greenhouse and nursery growers?

Mycorrhizal Applications, the leading producer of mycorrhizal propagules in the US, produces a suite of professional products that make it easy for growers to trial mycorrhizae and to incorporate it into their production programs.  Their flagship “MycoApply” endomycorrhizal inoculum products contain four different Glomus species of AMF for optimal diversity and performance under most growing conditions and crops.  These flagship endomycorrhizal inoculant products are MycoApply Endo and MycoApply Ultrafine Endo.  MycoApply Endo is a granular formulation containing 60,000 AMF propagules per pound and is ideal for soil incorporation, as the granular consistency blends evenly with growing media and soils.  MycoApply Ultrafine Endo is a suspendable powder containing 130,000 AMF propagules per pound which can be soil-incorporated or prepared as a liquid suspension for use as a soil drench or plug tray dip.  Whether incorporating the granular product into your media or drenching with the suspendable powder formulation, it is important to get the propagules in the root zone as soon as possible and as early in the crop cycle as possible.

 

MycoApply Endo & MycoApply Ultrafine Endo

Where can I learn more?

Plants and mycorrhizal fungi have had a long-term relationship for over 400 million years and we are just beginning to understand this relationship better and are now employing this symbiotic mutualism in professional horticulture.  You can learn more about mycorrhizae by going to Mycorrhizal Applications’ website (http://mycorrhizae.com/) or by contacting Mycorrhizal Applications directly at 1 (866) 476-7800.  Resources and literature such as Fungicide Interactions with Mycorrhizal Fungi, and the Mycorrhizal Status of Plant Families and Genera are available through their website or by contacting them directly, in order to help you determine how to include mycorrhizal fungi most effectively into your professional growing protocols.  MycoApply products are also available through many horticultural distributors throughout North America.

Hugh A. Poole, Ph. D.

Horticultural Technical Consultant

September 12, 2017

©2017 Mycorrhizal Applications LLC.  All rights reserved.


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Managing Mites in Professional Greenhouses

We’ve all been there… You are growing your plants in your greenhouse and everything is going great, until it isn’t. The leaves are yellowing or browning, the new growth looks stunted or cupped, and old leaves are even falling off, or perhaps you see strange growths or galls on the plants, but you don’t see any obvious pests. It is possible it is a disease, but first let’s pull out the microscope and take a closer look. You might just have mites. Broad mites, spider mites, and eriophyid mites are all common mite pests that can cause these mysterious symptoms.

How do you know for sure if you have one of these types of mites?

Pull off a few leaves, both old leaves and newer leaves that look damaged or infested, and examine them under a microscope at 10x, 40x or more, depending on how good your eyesight is. Focus on the undersides of leaves when looking for mites and their eggs.

For broad mites specifically, you need to find some eggs, which are about 0.08 mm long and covered in tiny polka dots. The closer you can zoom in, the easier they are to identify. Adult broad mites are a translucent light-green to yellowish color, and the females have a white stripe down their backs. However, the eggs are really the most obvious identifier, with that tell-tale polka dot pattern.

Broad Mite Egg Photo

(Picture from Texas Plant Disease and Diagnostics Lab website.)

Spider mites are most easily identifiable by noticing the webbing along with the mites. Adult spider mites have two red eye spots near the head and females two dark splotches, one on each side of the body, and bristly bodies and legs. The eggs are small, clear and spherical.

Spider Mite Photo

(Picture from UC Statewide IPM Project,
Copyright 2001 Regents, University of California)

Eriophyid mites are elongate and have two pairs of front legs that drag the rest of the body behind it. They can be extremely small with the smallest being around 1/100th of an inch long so that field identification is virtually impossible. They often form galls on the plants and evidence of infestation is often determined by identifying the plant damage rather than trying to see the mite itself. Also note, if these mites are currently inside a gall then pyrethrins and pyrethroids won’t affect them. They are protected inside the gall and only susceptible to non-systemic insecticides like pyrethrins when they are out and about.

Eriophyid Mite Photo

(Picture from The Ohio State University website. http://bygl.osu.edu/node/751)

If you determine that you do have mite pests, then what?

Well, there are several options. If you are able to dispose of the infested plants, that can help cut down the overall population quickly, but you still need to manage the mites that are left, and luckily there are several good options. You can use horticultural soaps or oils, or other pesticide options labelled for mites. If you choose to use pesticides, PyGanic Specialty organically derived pyrethrins or EverGreen Pro 60-6 from MGK are good options to crush the mite population initially.  These botanically-derived insecticides have a very short residual persistence, so just a few days after application, you can then introduce beneficial predatory mites into your greenhouse to keep the destructive mites from returning in force.

PyGanic Specialty is OMRI listed, it contains pyrethrins, and can be used in certified organic facilities. EverGreen Pro 60-6 is not OMRI listed. It contains PBO in addition to pyrethrins which is a synthetically produced synergist. A synergist enhances the efficacy of the active ingredient, but is not itself an insecticide. Both products are in group 3A (pyrethroids/pyrethrins) of the insecticide resistance action committee (IRAC) classification system. They are sodium channel modulators.

To reduce the risk of contributing to insecticide/miticide resistance, growers must rotate modes of action in their insecticide applications. The Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) has classified the modes of action into groups. Some other common groups of insecticides are group 4A (neonicotinoids), group 1A (carbamates), group 5 (spinosyns), and group 6 (avermectins). Something to take note of if you rotate with a group 4A neonicotinoid is that imidacloprid is known to cause outbreaks of spider mites, and other neonicotinoids may have the same effect so they may not be the best choice for a mite application. For all of these groups and the individual insecticides in them, they will have varying levels of residual activity, and other properties that may affect pre-harvest intervals, beneficial insects/mites, use sites and a host of other factors. In addition to the properties of the active ingredient itself, the formulation also plays a big role in residual activity, use sites, etc. so make sure to read the labels thoroughly on any product you use. You can check out the IRAC website to learn more about insecticide groups and rotation of modes of action to reduce the risk of resistance http://www.irac-online.org/modes-of-action/.

One of the benefits of pyrethrins over other active ingredients is the lack of residual persistence, which means they can be applied close to or even after harvest, and the ability to reintroduce beneficials soon after application without worry. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to use EverGreen Pro 60-6 or PyGanic Specialty vs another product with a different active ingredient. There are certainly times you may want a longer residual and a different mode of action. Evergreen Pro 60-6 and PyGanic Specialty aren’t always going to be the best options, but they do have some specific times where they fit in well.

PyGanic Specialty & EverGreen Pro 60-6

If you decide to utilize insecticides like PyGanic or EverGreen Pro, there are a few key points to take note of: The half-life in direct sunlight is about 11 hours. Therefore, spraying in the evening hours is recommended to prolong efficacy. Pyrethrins are also a broad spectrum insecticide so spray when pollinators are least likely to contact the sprayed area, again evening is probably a good time in this respect also.  These products will be most effective at the early stages of infestation or to knockdown large infestations that may have gotten out of control. When applying the insecticide for the initial knockdown, good coverage is the key. Make sure all the surfaces are thoroughly covered, and try to get the solution into those hard to reach areas like the buds. (Keep in mind that if you have beneficial mites in the greenhouse, pesticides or other product applications could hurt those populations too and predatory mites may have to be reintroduced into the system after insecticide treatments.)  Then, once the population has been knocked down, the introduction of beneficial mites a few days after the botanical pyrethrins will be most effective, now that the pest population has been brought down to a low to moderate level.

How can these insecticides be applied?

There are several pieces of equipment that work well. You can use a hand held manual pump sprayer, a backpack sprayer, a cold fogger, and even some types of irrigation systems. Check the label to determine which irrigation systems are okay to apply these products with. I also want to emphasize here that coverage of the plant when spraying is key. Make sure to thoroughly spray both the top and bottom surfaces of leaves.

How can I keep the mites from coming back, once the infestation has been resolved?

Mites can also hitchhike from plant-to-plant on flying insects such as whiteflies, travel on air currents, or even be transported by clothing or equipment. So if you have whitefly problems or other potential transport methods for mites, make sure the mites aren’t spreading to other areas. Mites can also hitch a ride on people or even strong air currents. Monitor healthy plants to make sure they aren’t getting new infestations that will have to be controlled too. It would also be wise to check for mites in any nearby weeds that could harbor them, as well as closely inspecting any incoming plants for mites to prevent reintroduction into the greenhouse. Treatment is always easier when you can catch the problem early, and of course, prevention of infestations altogether is always ideal whenever possible.

No matter which treatment method you use, it is important to continue to monitor new growth closely to make sure your plants are growing normally and not stunted. Remember to monitor both healthy looking and damaged plants, as scheduled monitoring of both the pest and beneficial mite populations is critical, along with good hygiene and sanitation.

Sandra Sleezer

MGK – Technical Service Coordinator

September 14, 2017


Everybody’s Doing It—Should You? (GrowerTalks Cover Story)

by Jennifer Zurko (Excerpt from GrowerTalks, February 2017)

(Link to Original Article: http://www.ballpublishing.com/GrowerTalks/CoverStory.aspx?articleid=22821)

GrowerTalksFebCoverCapture

It’s an important word that’s hard to pronounce, but once you see the benefits of adding it to your growing media, it’ll be as simple as saying phytophthora.

At least that’s what the companies who produce mycorrhizae and the media that include it are hoping. And it seems to be working—they say more and more growers are seeing how it can help their crop go from good to great with a better root system, plant vigor and more.

Mycorrhizae isn’t a new thing, by any stretch; it’s been naturally occurring in nature since forever. And greenhouse growers knew about it 30 years ago, but at the time, no one had ever thought they would be able to use it in their own growing media. Now, with more research coming out and more companies making it commercially available, mycorrhizae is all the rage…

Continue Reading: http://www.ballpublishing.com/GrowerTalks/CoverStory.aspx?articleid=22821


New Growing Media Advancements Giving Growers More Options

By: Laura Drotleff (Excerpt from Greenhouse Grower, December 2016)

Link to Original Article: http://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/crop-inputs/media/new-growing-media-advancements-giving-growers-more-options/

A number of advancements in growing media components have surfaced over the past few years, providing growers with new options for building the best possible foundation for growing healthy plants.

Growers who are mixing their own growing media want to develop precise recipes that will ensure optimal growth for a large range of crops at an affordable price. Those who purchase pre-blends appreciate the convenience, consistency, and innovation that goes into the mixes expert growing media companies provide. These suppliers also offer the ability to mix a grower’s custom blend.

Here are some of the newest advancements in growing media components and premixes for growers today:

Click Here for Full Article: http://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/crop-inputs/media/new-growing-media-advancements-giving-growers-more-options/

 


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


The Dirt on Biodiversity: Mycorrhizal fungi essential to healthy vineyard soil

By Jessica Cortell (excerpt from Oregon Wine Press)

Link to Original Article: http://www.oregonwinepress.com/dirt-biodiversity 

How often do we contemplate the biodiversity of soils and what it means to healthy vineyards and for that matter, a healthy planet? The main four components of soil are water, air, minerals and organic matter. The organic component of soil is around 3 to 10 percent in Willamette Valley soils but is often overlooked in its importance.

Living soil microorganisms are less than 5 percent of the total organic component. Soils are among the most diverse ecosystem on Earth. Soil biodiversity includes all organisms living in the soil, which can be broken down into macro, mesa and micro-fauna. They can also be organized by the functions they perform in the soil. Without us paying much attention, this multitude of organisms is carrying out many important functions right under our very own feet.

The soil microorganisms can be regarded as the “biological engine of the earth.” They are involved in most of the key functions soil provides such as nutrient uptake, nutrient cycling, soil aggregate formation, degradation of pollutants, suppression of soil-borne diseases and regulation of plant communities. Also, soil microbial processes play key roles in mediating global climate change.

What about in vineyards? What roles do these organisms play and what practices are detrimental to them? About 20 years ago, many vineyards in Oregon had the “scorched earth” look where all vegetation but the vines were killed with herbicides. Luckily, the industry has come a long way since then in understanding, improving and maintaining soil biodiversity in vineyards.

When it comes to microbes, it is all about relationships. Here we will focus on a relationship between the grapevine and a specific type of fungi. The surface area that can be explored is the key to water and nutrient uptake by grapevine roots. While large roots anchor the vine and medium roots store nutrients, the fine roots are responsible for uptake. Better yet, grapevines have co-evolved for thousands of years with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi to assist with nutrient uptake. Fossil evidence suggests that this mutually beneficial relationship with plants appeared around 400 to 600 million years ago when plants were first colonizing land.

These fungi have a relationship with grapevines in which they trade carbohydrates from the vine’s roots for improvements in uptake of water and nutrients. The fungus actually lives inside the root and forms a fungal structure known as an arbuscule inside the root cells. Arbuscules are tree-shaped structures that are responsible for nutrient exchange between the plant and the fungus. The fungus has an extensive network of hyphae outside of the root to absorb water and nutrients.

This fungal relationship has many benefits for the grapevine, including the ability to explore and take up nutrients from a greater soil volume, the hyphae have a greater ability to take up phosphorus, the hyphae can explore smaller soil pores and the hyphae can help support healthy soil aggregation for aeration and movement of water in the soil pores.

Mycorrhizal fungi play an important role in the uptake of phosphorus. Phosphorus is important in phosphate groups in ATP and ADP, which is the energy currency used by plants and animals. In general, phosphorus levels are quite low in Willamette Valley soils, and the amount of phosphorus in the soil solution is extremely low. In addition, phosphorus movement in the soil is very slow. As plants need to take up inorganic phosphate from the soil solution, it is surprising grapevines are able to pull up much phosphorus at all. However, it is the fungi that make it happen.

Even more fascinating is that the fungal hyphae can create an extensive network and connect roots on multiple vines and other species of plants. In one study, it was shown that fungal hyphae could connect the grapevines to the cover crop growing in a vineyard and minerals were found to move via the hyphae highway from the cover crop to the grapevines (Baumgartner, 2006). This helps explain how phosphorus even at low levels in the soil can move into the vine.

Improvements in phosphorus uptake have added benefits of improving drought tolerance in grapevines. One way mycorrhizal uptake of phosphorus helps is in allowing the grapevine roots to grow deep in the soil profile to take up water instead of growing shallow near the surface searching for phosphorus.

As far as practical applications in the vineyard, growers can encourage AM fungi by planting cover crops of mixed legumes and grasses or other species (except mustards as they are detrimental) and doing minimal cultivation of the cover crops in order to minimize disruption of the hyphae. In one study, mycorrhizal colonization increased from 4.7 percent in conventional management to 15.9 percent under organic management. Synthetic phosphorus fertilizers were found to be detrimental to AM fungi. Most Oregon vineyards plant cover crops regardless of the production system and use minimal amounts of synthetic fertilizers.

For new plantings, using field-grown vines are preferred as they will already have associations with mycorrhizae fungi. For potted vines grown in sterile media, they could be inoculated at planting but another approach is to grow a cover crop in the soil prior to planting the vines so the AM fungi will already be present in the soil and can colonize the young vines quickly.

Link to Original Article: http://www.oregonwinepress.com/dirt-biodiversity 

COPYRIGHT 2015 Oregon Wine Press

 


How Mycorrhizae Can Improve Plant Quality

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A mycorrhiza (plural mycorrhizae) is an anatomical structure that results from a symbiotic association between a soil fungus and plant roots. In exchange for a “home,” the fungus provides numerous benefits to the host plant which we’ll discuss in the next section. Mycorrhizal fungi produce an extensive network of microscopic hyphal threads that extend into the surrounding soil or growing medium (Fig. 1). Literally thousands of research papers have been written on mycorrhizal fungi, but many growers are unsure whether their plants have mycorrhizae or how to identify them. Numerous brands of commerical mycorrhizal inoculums are available but, unfortunately, some have been marketed as a “silver bullet” that will cure all your propagation problems. Since you are all experienced propagators who already know how to grow plants, we’d like to share with you how to make them even better.