These fungi increase the surface absorbing area of roots 100 to 1,000 times thereby greatly improving the ability of the plants to utilize the soil resource. Estimates of amounts of mycorrhizal filaments present in soil associated with plants are astonishing. Several miles of fungal filaments can be present in less than a thimbleful of soil! But mycorrhizal fungi increase nutrient uptake not only by increase the surface absorbing area of roots, they also release powerful chemicals into the soil that dissolve hard to capture nutrients such as phosphorous , iron and other “tightly bound” soil nutrients. This extraction process is particularly important in plant nutrition and explains why non-mycorrhizal plants require high levels of fertility to maintain their health. Mycorrhizal fungi form an intricate web that captures and assimilates nutrients, thus conserving the nutrient capital in soils. In non mycorrhizal conditions much of this fertility is wasted or lost from the soil system.
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