Mycorrhizae: What foresters _MUST_ learn about fungi

truffler1635 at truffler1635 at
Fri Apr 28 14:11:59 EST 2000

In article <8ea5vd$nik$1 at news.NERO.NET>,
  "Thom O'Dell" <odellt at> wrote:
> For the first statement, I recommend a standard microbial ecology textbook.
> Also see Bills and Polishook. 1994. Mycologia 86: 187. In their paper they
> do not extrapolate to the hectare, because in their few samples they got
> very low overlap of species between samples. I don't know where Amaranthus
> gets a per hectare figure, intensive sampling using a variety of isolation
> methods is necessary to derive such an estimate. That said it is not a
> totally unreasonable figure. I believe that they isolated about 100 - 200
> species of microfungi from two or four 1cc samples of decomposing leaf
> litter.
> The correct statement regarding the percent of plants that are mycorrhizal
> is not percent of total plant species, because only about 3% of species have
> been examined.  Trappe 1987 (Pp. 5-25 in Ecophysiology of VA Mycorrhizal
> Plants, G. Safir Ed., CRC Press) provides the most thorough review to date.
> His earlier statement that "about 95% of the worlds present species of
> vascular plants belong to families that are characteristically
> mycorrhizal..." (Trappe1977, Ann Rev. Phytopathol. 15: 203) is widely
> misquoted.
> Thom O'Dell
> odellt at
> or
> todell/r6pnw_corvallis at
Thanks for posting, Thom. Evidently the misquote is propogated in part
by newspapers. Here is one such article about Mike Amaranthus.

The Oregonian, August 8, 1999, p E1


A few entrepreneurs sell the spores of mushrooms, truffles and puffballs
as alternatives to fertilizers and pesticides


	GRANTS PASS - Mike Amaranthus opened the glass door of a
refrigerator case that once stocked cold beer in a convenience store and
peeled back the top of a big blue plastic container to reveals a musty
brown powder.
	“Two tablespoons of this powder contains more spores than there are
people on Earth,” he said. “You can imagine what you can do with 50
	Amaranthus and a handful of other entrepreneurs are selling the
spores of mushrooms, puffballs and truffles as an alternative to
chemical fertilizers and pesticides, not just because they are organic
and natural, but because 430 million years of evolution can’t be wrong.
They help plants grow.
	As proof, Amaranthus offers test plants - roses, maple trees and
marigolds - grown with and without the fungi. Those inoculated with
spores are bigger and leafier and have more blooms.
	“Most people related to fungi moldy bread and itchy toes, but 90
percent of the world’s plants form a beneficial relationship to fungi
that we call the mycorrhizae,” Amaranthus said.
	Hence the name of his company, Mycorrhizal Applications Inc.
	The relationship can be traced to the earliest fossils of land
plants, leading scientists such as Amaranthus to theorize that fungi
helped ancient aquatic plants make the jump to the hostile environment
of dry land.
	Simply put, the fungi attach to the roots of the plant and help the
plants take in moisture and nutrients through a network of tiny
filaments called hyphae that spread through the soil, increasing the
root mass 10 to 10,000 times. The plants feed the fungi in return.
	Amaranthus first ran across mycorrhizae in 1976, when he started
working as a soil scientist for the Siskiyou National Forest. Many
foresters still regarded the white and yellow strands they saw on tree
roots as pathogens attacking the trees, but he found that they were
	Through his doctoral work in forest ecology at Oregon State
University and later work for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific
Northwest Research Station, Amaranthus helped unravel the secret life of
trees and mycorrhizal fungi.
	In 1997 he left the woods to bring mycorrhizae to the marketplace.
He ran through his retirement savings getting started, but now makes a
profit and employes five people full time. The nonprofit organization
Sustainable Northwest, which promotes ecological use of natural
resources, recognized him as a Founder of the New Northwest this year.

Gearing up for 1 billion plants

	The spores come from mushrooms, puffballs and truffles harvested
from the wild as well as from cultivated areas around the world.
Amaranthus won’t divulge financial information, but says last year
Mycorrhizal Applications sold enough spores to inoculate 200 million
plants. The company is gearing up to produce enough for 1 billion
	Though Mycorrhizal Applications is still small, others are bigger.
Plant Health Care Inc., in Pittsburgh claims the title of industry
leader, with annual revenues of $100 million just four years after
	The company supplies beneficial bacteria as well as mycorrhizal
spores for arborists, nurseries, landscapers, turf farms, golf courses
and fruit- and vegetable-growers.
	“We think that because of regulation of soil fumigants as well as
increasing regulation of certain classes of chemical pesticide, more and
more growers are becoming open to and interested in the below-ground
ecology of the plant,” said President Wayne Wall.
	Complaints against the soil fumigant methyl bromide, used to control
things such as root-eating nematodes, are growing because of fears over
ozone depletion and health risks. Last week the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency moved to ban methyl parathion, commonly sprayed on
applies, because of child health concerns.
	Cxommercial demand for biological assessment of worn-out
agricultural fields has grown so much that Oregon State University told
forest science professor Elaine Ingham to take her outside lab work off-
campus. She launched Soil Foodweb, an independent soil testing
	“Sometimes I liken this to a tidal wave coming ashore,” she said.
“When people start recognizing the potential benefits of getting health
back into the soil, it is going to become a very important part of

Rejuvenating depleted soil

	Research has shown that mycorrhizals help plants absorb essential
micronutrients such as calcium and can even help control pests such as
root-feeding nematodes, Ingham said.
	Only since the advent of companies like Plant Health Care and
Mycorrhizal Applications could she tell growers how to get the
biological elements back into soil that they had depleted by plowing and
using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, she said.
	Ken Riskin, president of Qualitree nursery in Eddyville, has been
inoculating seedlings with mycorrhizal since 1983 and found he could get
the same growth using 25 percent less fertilizer. The spores cost less
than he was saving on fertilizer.
	“The trees are healthier and more disease resistant,” he said.
	Plants link up with specific fungi so Mycorrhizal Applications makes
custom mixes for commercial clients in a liquid, powder or gel. The
spores can be dripped on through irrigation, sprayed on by cropduster,
or dropped in the soil at planting time.
	The results produced by fungi could be achieved by applying
fertilizer every two weeks. But 70 to 90 percent of nitrogen applied in
nurseries is not absorbed by the plants and ends up getting washed into
rivers, where it is a pollutant, Amaranthus said.
	One inoculation of fungi lasts all yuear, costs pennies a plant and
produces a bigger root system that is also resistant to disease.
	“Nature has provided the template,” Amaranthus said. “The problem is

Daniel B. Wheeler

> In article <20000419121641Z62846-658+29 at>, "Barry
> Saville" <bsaville at> wrote:
> > By no means do I intend any disrespect but Could anybody give me the
> > references that support the statements attributed to Mike Amaranthus like
> > 10,000 species of fungi in a square foot or that 90% of the worlds plants
> > have Mycorrhizal associations.
> > --Barry Saville Bsc. MSc. PhD.
> > Assistant Professor
> > Biology Department
> > University of Toronto at Mississauga
> > bsaville at
> >

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