The use of Mycorrhizal Fungi in edible plants

Growing your own has never been more popular and a trend that is also popular at the moment is using less pesticides and more natural fertilisers. This is particularly important with edible plants as many people don’t want to be eating residues left by pesticides and eating fruit and vegetables that may have little or no flavour as they were exclusively fed with artificial chemical fertilisers.

The soil is the first step toward growing healthy fruit and vegetables and it is the first thing that should be considered. In nature soils harbour a myriad of organisms which support plants the largest group and arguably the most important group are the mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi are literally a secondary living root which absorbs nutrients and water from a large area of soil and transports it to the host plant.

Annual vegetable beds can be sadly deficient in these beneficial fungi as it takes years for plants to become naturally colonised. In the case of growing vegetables they are often in the ground for 3-9 months and do not become naturally colonised very much in that time, so why not apply mycorrhizal fungi at planting time to ensure the edible plants have the best start possible.

Rootgrow is a natural blend of UK origin mycorrhizal fungi which if applied to plants at planting time will colonise them in a matter of weeks. Rootgrow is also verified by the soil association as suitable for use in organic production systems. A fruit or vegetable with a healthy mycorrhizal root system will take up nutrients better, flower more profusely and produce greater crop yields

Mycorrhizal fungi are known to have evolved one particular skill which is very important to edible plants and that is the ability to take up Phosphorous (P). P is a key element in producing flowers and consequently fruits and vegetables however in the soil it can be poorly available to the plant. Especially clay soils which actually lock up P in its structure. A plant treated with mycorrhizal fungi will be able to extract P even from Clay soils and this will go on to create earlier and more prolific flowers and also better cropping.

The mycorrhizal root is not only efficient at taking up P but can also find in the soil scores of other nutrients and trace elements. You could liken the mycorrhizal root to a trawler boats fishing net, the plants root on their own are like a net designed to catch very large fish so consequently the holes in the net are large enough for smaller fish to swim through. The mycorrhizal net is the equivalent of a fine mesh net curtain that can catch virtually every nutrient (or fish) in its path.

Many professional growers have been quick to take up the use of mycorrhizal fungi in production

The Henry Doubleday Research association conducted a members trial in 2005 where 100 keen amateur gardeners compared the growth of leeks treated and untreated with mycorrhizal fungi. They reported back a 20% increase in harvest weight and a 25% increase in girth diameter of the treated plants. These increases were with no additional fertiliser inputs so the plants could have been even better if they had been fed with a good quality organic feed.

Fruit production is also another key area where the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi are well known. So much so that in RHS Wisleys fruit catalogue for 2007 they stated on the front page that they recommend rootgrow for successful fruit establishment. Later on in 2008 the RHS officially licensed and endorsed rootgrow after nearly 7 years of continuous use throughout their gardens.

A number of UK vineyards routinely treat new plantings of grape vines due to the benefits of better establishment, Nyetimber vineyards in West Sussex and Daven Port Vineyards in East Sussex are to name but two.

Alys Fowler the Head Gardener at Berryfields the BBC GW site has had great successes using rootgrow even in growbags.

The use of mycorrhizal fungi represents another tool available to the gardener, it is a way of naturally kick starting soil fertility and ensuring the roots (the power house of plants) can function at maximum efficiency to ensure that edible plants produce the best possible yields. rootgrow is widely available from over 600 garden centres and directly from

Plantworks – Tel: 01795 411527 or for more information.