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Plants farm bacteria and fungi

Fungi in forest soil.Just as the sun forms the focus of the above-ground food web, plant roots form the nucleus of the below-ground food web.  Every plant exudes sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins from their roots, sometimes giving away as much as 40% of the high energy foods they worked so hard to produce.  Why?

Plants are, in essence, farming bacteria and fungi.  These microorganisms cluster around roots and soak up the high quality plant exudates, then provide services to the plant in return.  Mycorrhizal fungi bind to the plant roots and carry nutrients and water from long distances away to feed their plant buddies.  Fungi also store easily leachable calcium in crystals on their backs, where the nutrient can cycle through the food web and return to plant roots rather than being lost.

Bacteria do their part in the root zone too, cycling nutrients out of forms inaccessible to plants and into forms roots can easily suck up.  In addition, good bacteria (and fungi too) protect the plant from pathogens.  They both bind tiny soil particles into larger particles, thus improving the soil structure, drainage, and aeration.


This post is part of our Living Soil lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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