Mycelia is the body of a fungus that connects to roots of plants. Mushrooms are just the reproductive part of the fungus as flowers are to plants. There are many different subcategories of mycelia and for this post I will be focussing more or less exclusively on mycorrhiza. The mycorrhizal connection forms what is referred to as the “wood wide web” and allows trees, shrubs, and plants of all types to share information and nutrients with their neighboring plants. Experiments have shown that carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus can be passed along underground between plants which would account for the survival of small plants on the forest floor which are too deeply shaded to make enough food through photosynthesis.
Experiments have also shown that mycorrhizae are efficient transport systems for chemical messages between plants. One plant can signal others in the vicinity when there is a pest and natural repellents are needed so that others can start producing the needed chemicals before there is a full blown infestation. These are just two of the functions of mycorrhizae that we have discovered. There may be even more. We do know however that plants with a strong underground system of mycorrhizae are healthier than their counterparts.
Plants and mycorrhizae have a symbiotic relationship, meaning that they both support each other. While the plants provide the mycorrhizae with carbohydrates, the mycorrhizae help supply the plants with water, nitrogen, and phosphorous. The mycorrhizae also helps boost the plant’s immune system by triggering chemicals that help defend it from harmful bacteria or diseases. The health of plants is essential especially when it comes to cleaning the air of carbon dioxide and repurposing pollution into oxygen.
Mycorrhizae also help to reform soil. Mycelium are what can break down rocks and mineral and turn them into nutrient rich soil. Regenerative agriculture is better than simply sustainable agriculture in that it depends on nature’s tendency to revert to a closed nutrient loop, greater biological diversity and a reliance on internal rather than external resources. The mycorrhizae are part of the healthy soil that makes regenerative agriculture possible, because in a healthy soil, plants can handle drought, insect attacks and nutrient absorption without chemicals from external sources. This kind of farming results in no nutrient runoff or pollution of waterways because regenerative soil retains its nutrients.
The “wood wide web” works similarly to the human brain. The mycorrhizal connections are similar to the neurons in how they transfer signals and chemicals. Another way I can relate to mycorrhizae is through horticulture. I have always been intrigued by plants and this information has completely altered my perspective of my surroundings.
Fleming, N. (2014, November 11). Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141111-plants-have-a-hidden-internet
Giovannetti, M., Avio, L., Fortuna, P., Pellegrino, E., Sbrana, C., & Strani, P. (2006, January). At the Root of the Wood Wide Web: Self Recognition and Non-Self Incompatibility in Mycorrhizal Networks. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633692/
Stamets, P. (2016, March 16). Mushrooms as Medicine. Lecture presented at Exponential Medicine. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from Fleming, N. (2014, November 11). Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/14/mushroom-healing-power.aspx?e_cid=20160314Z1_DNL_art_3&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art3&utm_campaign=20160314Z1&et_cid=DM100397&et_rid=1398413319