Does Nature Know Best?

Don Staples dstaples at
Mon Jan 12 22:43:11 EST 1998

dwheeler at wrote:
> [This is a courtesy copy of an article posted to Usenet via Deja News]
> 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.

Benign neglect?  We are talking crops with 50 to 100 year rotation, what
would you do, hoe between the rows on a yearly basis?  Yellowstone was a
product of beleaving Smokey the Bear, under pressure from citizens to
not "show all that burnt ground".  I grow lots of things in my woods
that I don't identify, insects, fungus, lizards, reptiles, small mammals
(although I do better with the higher evolved animals and plants)and an
occaisional suprise plant, long endangered,but hey, my woods got 'em. 
Quite frankly, mycorrhizal fungi don't interest me, they are there, they
do their job, I couldn't get rid of them if I tried, that happens in 
the sub-tropics.  You like them, be my guest, identify away, enjoy, grow
'em, hell, take 'em out to lunch,  we foresters have a few bigger plants
to worry about.

> > >
> > > 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.

No, he was speaking of subsistance farming in Appalacia, much as the
subsistance farming in the rain forests today.  It will end in the same
results, but go to Appalacia today, rather nice National Park Highway
runs the ridge tops, through all those forests, no desertification.
> > >
> > > 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
> secondary.

Huh?  Root hairs are for support?  Damn, don't want to stand under any
tree over 6 feet tall. 

> 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.

The bleach has done its damage and killed root cells and root hairs,
what else is new?  The bleach is selective enough to not kill plant
cells, only the mycorrhizals?  Your experiment is started from a
solution, and finds it circular way back to the solution.
> Even today in commercial mushroom-growing operations, competitive fungi
> are treated with this 1:10 bleach solution, which kills most fungi on
> contact.

See comment directly above, good stuff, that bleach.

> > >
> > > > 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.

Support a tree seedling by themselves for a year in nature? Hummmm, I
must have missed that part in Plant 101, they taught such mundane things
as nutrients,
oxygen, CO2, moisture, sunlight  instead of wonder fungus.
> > > > 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.

Yep.  Fungus helps, but the bulk of the plant material that has
composted into the soil does as well. Along with aluvial deposites,
uplifted magma, but you get the picture.
> 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?

The point is, sun, rain, fungus, plants, animals, etc,that are in or
effect the soil are there, on their own, to try and improve one fungii
to the point that it alone is present under the stand is rediculus.  Man
doesn't have the capability of matching nature, only creating a shallow
image of it,  I'll leave my fungii to nature to provide, she has done
that quite well, thank you very much, without my interference.
Don Staples

My Ego Stroke:

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