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October 9th, 2017 / EurikaAlert

By developing a symbiotic relationship with fungi, plants not only become more tolerant to diseases but can also help contribute to more sustainable agricultural practices. This is the conclusion of a new study from the University of Gothenburg.

Most crops can form symbiosis with fungi to gain key nutrients. The fungi in turn gain carbohydrates generated through the plant’s photosynthesis.

This type of symbiosis is called arbuscular mycorrhizas and is of key importance to sustainable agriculture since it helps crops utilise better the phosphate in fertilisers.

‘This symbiosis is very important since the leakage of phosphate from farm fields contributes to harmful eutrophication of rivers, lakes and seas,’ says Cornelia Spetea Wiklund, professor at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg.

The Symbiosis Protects against Drought and Diseases

The fungal symbiosis also makes the plants more tolerant to certain diseases and environmental factors such as drought. In order to learn how to better utilise the symbiosis in agriculture, the researchers have explored what causes the increased hardiness of plants. One mechanism involved seems to be that the fungi increase the plant’s levels of several hormones in both its roots and shoots. Read more