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Understanding Miryal® and the Avatar Effect
Miryal® probiotic mycorrhizae. What does that mean?
First, a bit of a history lesson. During the mid to late 1800’s, scientists became interested in relationships between organisms. The term “symbiotismus” (symbiosis) was used to describe the coexistence of dissimilar organisms whereby the organisms seemed to help each other.
In 1885, a German forest pathologist, A.B. Frank, soon described one such interaction between trees and fungi that he called “mykorhiza” from the Greek meaning “fungus-root”. Increasingly, more and more reports of partnerships between plants and fungi were described in the world.
Mycorrhizal scientists were soon compelled by curiosity and advancements in technology. This led to the examination of the fossil record to determine how mycorrhizal associations evolved with plants. Fossils resembling mycorrhizae, dating back 440 million years ago have been found and are similar to present day structural features of mycorrhizae. Some scientists have gone so far as to speculate the presence of ancient mycorrhizal fungi may have been a deciding factor in the facilitation of plants moving from aquatic environments to land.
Now that we know mycorrhizae have been living with plants around the globe for a long time, are all mycorrhizae the same? The answer is no. Approximately, 95 percent of all plant families occur with mycorrhizal fungi. If we look at the worldwide occurrence, seven groups have been distinguished.
Miryal® consists of two main types:
Endomycorrhizae, often called arbuscular mycorrhizae, is the largest group colonizing the majority of plants, such as herbs, forbs, grasses, fruits, vegetables, and selected trees. Plant root tissues and fungal propagules grow together whereby the mycorrhizal fungus grows inside roots cells and also grows fine extensions surrounding and emanating from the root system. These extensions called hyphae (collectively, mycelium) are smaller in diameter than many fine roots. This biological characteristic allows mycorrhizae to exploit resources such as water and nutrients more efficiently than plant roots growing in the absence of mycorrhizae.
The second large group, ectomycorrhizae, are found in a broad array of trees and shrubs particularly those described as evergreens or conifers. Ectomycorrhizae differ from endomycorrhizae such that these mycorrhizal fungi do not grow inside root cells but in between cells, extensively on the root’s outer surfaces and also emanating away from roots. Ectomycorrhizae also frequently form fruiting bodies, such as mushrooms and truffles, which are edible and highly valued.
What's in it for the plants?
The diversity of mycorrhizae prompts the questions, how do Miryal® mycorrhizae function; what’s in this interaction for the plant? When plants and mycorrhizae grow together in this close symbiotic manner, there is a biological cost to both the plant and the fungus.
Plants, through photosynthesis, manufacture energy in the form of carbon and carbon compounds. Plant hosts pay this carbon to the mycorrhizal fungus. Simultaneously, the fungus makes a down payment to the plant in the form of increased nutrient and water uptake.
What's in it for the soil?
The fungal factor doesn’t stop with water and nutrients though. Mycorrhizal fungi also improve the rhizosphere (the area around the plant root system), providing micro habitats for other soil organisms. The soil environment is therefore a living, dynamic ecosystem with mycorrhizal fungi playing major roles in soil re-structuring and resistance to climate extremes and pathogens.
Making the most of the Miryal® effect
This dynamic exchange belowground is a field of study that is continuously exploding and unfolding. Canadian scientists have historically been major players in the advancement of our understanding and appreciation of mycorrhizal associations. Miryal® mycorrhizae is in the mix and now we can ask the big question -- how can we make the most of the Miryal® effect? Thankfully, science is on our side. One of the most compelling phenomenon of the last two decades has been the study of how mycorrhizal root systems interact. Scientists call this mycorrhizal networking or common mycorrhizal networks. Simply put, mycorrhizal fungi that grow with one plant species can form linkages to a different mycorrhizal plant root system. We know these belowground networks can be extensive (many kilometres) and can re-form quickly after fire, pest attacks or other stresses. The mycorrhizal network is hard picture and even harder to see with the naked eye but its biological significance cannot be understated. Comparably, mycorrhizal networks can be likened to vast multi-level transportation networks or social media.
Avatar and the future of Miryal® mycorrhizae
Thus, Miryal® mycorrhizae encourages the development of a biological system that can shuttle chemical communication and resources between plants. If you think this is hard to imagine, think again. You might be familiar with the movie Avatar. James Cameron’s story included a world where mother trees reach out and connect to their offspring or kin. While this was in a blockbuster movie, the science was real not fiction. Where will the science lead us next? Sustainable food production and forestry practices, climate change strategies and greening urban environments are all candidates for the next generation of mycorrhizal science.
Help us make Miryal® play a role.
© Soil Advocates Inc.
with Dr. Leanne Philip of Soil Advocates Inc.