Does Nature Know Best?

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Sun Jan 11 19:52:13 EST 1998

In article <34B833E1.C4A at>,
  dstaples at wrote:
> dwheeler at wrote:
> >
> >
> > > We foresters not providing cultivated mycorrhizal fungi must account for
> > > the desertifaction of the south east, north east, mid-north, etc.  I see
> > > no reason to try to grow or "provide"  that which is so abundant in
> > > nature, i.e., mycorrhizal fungi.  I can see where propagation in sterile
> > > soils in a green house may not provide the necessary fungi, but they
> > > will be in the soils when planted, unless totally off site (arctic?)
> >
> > Not "provide"ing  mycorrhizal results in desertification. So how many
> > species of mycorrhizae have you cultivated?
> As many as were there when I started managing the land. Cultivation can
> include doing nothing.

Benign neglect, huh? Wasn't that what was tried in Yellowstone NP? ;) So
if you're growing them, you should be able to identify them, right? What
species are you finding? Here in Oregon, a typicaly Douglas fir has 5-50
different species of mycorrhizal fungi. I'd love to know how many you're
finding with Loblolly pine in the SE US.

> >
> >
> >
> > If your thesis were true, there would be no deserts today. Unfortunately,
> > the history of mankind has proven otherwise. The deserts of the world
> > continue to + increase+, not decrease. Many mycorrhizal fungi die upon
> > direct exposure to ultraviolet light, according to Dr. William Dennison,
> > past president of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association. Perhaps the
> > fastest way to kill most of these mycorrhizal fungi is to clearcut. In
> > Oregon at least, clearcutting also results in large amounts of dead woody
> > debris. This material is ideal for growing several species of root-rot
> > fungi. The main difference between forestry east of the Mississippi for
> > forestry west of the Cascade Mountains is the number and size of
> > evergreens per acre. Hardwoods have different mycorrhizal requirements,
> > which have not been assessed as yet.
> >
> Desertification does not grow from lack of fungii, but from miss use,
> loss of top soil, changing wheather patterns, etc, ad infinitum.
> "Perhaps the fastest way to clear cut"?  Studies here, or
> opinion?  To my knowledge (and it is not of depth of a college proff,
> but hey, I try) dead wood lacks the necessary requirments for most
> root-rots, i.e., phloem and zylem, functional.

I disagree. The history of agriculture has historically been tied in with
forestry in the US. Desertification is a long-term trend, and has
increased since widespread agriculture practices were instituted over
2,000 years ago.

As J. Russell Smith says in Tree Crops, "first the saw, then the plow,
then move on when the soil is gone." While Smith was speaking of the
1700-1930 period, he was also refering to forestry in the Appalachian
Mountains. The remaining untouched forests there typically were where
slopes were too steep to log safely.

> >
> > If you are growing your trees in a greenhouse, fungi-less trees are fine.
> > In nature there are not regular watering regimens. Fungi in nature gather
> > water and transport it to the trees.
> I wont go into plant physiology, but the plant structures necessary for
> water uptake come with the rooting structure.  Can fungi help?  Probably
> in some circumstance, yes in others.

Actually, plant roots are physiologically for support. Water absorption is

You might try this simple exercise. Uproot a seedling. Place the roots in
a 1:10 solution of bleach in water. Let sit for 30 seconds, then bathe
the roots in pure water to remove excess bleach. Then replant the tree in
pure sterilized soil outdoors. The bleach solution will effectively kill
the mycorrhizal fungi on the roots. You should see see signs of
dehydration within a week, unless your area is receiving a lot of rain at
this time.

Even today in commercial mushroom-growing operations, competitive fungi
are treated with this 1:10 bleach solution, which kills most fungi on

> >
> > > If your speaking of a particular fungi with a fruiting body particularly
> > > attractive to one culture or creature, then you are correct, I have no
> > > interest in the research, use or cultivation of same.  It's not
> > > necessary nor of value in my area.  And the mycorrhizae are beneath my
> > > feet, every day, every where I go.  Why carry coals to New Castle?
> > >

Some mycorrhizal species such as Glomus may be. It has not been proven
that these fungi, by and of themselves, can support a tree seedling for a
year in nature. As for Pisolithus tinctorius and Thelophora terrestris,
these fungi are demonstrably infrequent.

> > > I could as much ignore the sun and rain as the fungi, but I cannot
> > > change, modify, or be concerned about the absense or presence of any of
> > > the three from my lands.  Forrest Gump is the most current originater of
> > > the saying "''it happens".
> > >
True soil "happens". But usually it comes from somewhere.

Ignoring the sun and rain will effectively kill your trees also. See
Gifford Pinchot's work on the effects of sun and water on tree growth
from 1892. Or you could cover them for a couple of months with black
plastic...but what's the point? You have used pine needles as a mulch to
kill weeds haven't you?

Daniel B. Wheeler

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