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So Greg, in today’s segment we are going to talk about fungi specifically. But before we get into that I think it’s a good time to talk about the broader idea of symbiosis and what that actually means. Yeah! In nature there are a lot of interactions between species and people often focus on negative ones but there are tons of beneficial interactions. When we look at symbiosis it tends to be where there is a mutual benefit for both of the organisms that are working together. Yeah, exactly! Things like parasites and stuff also have a symbiotic relationship with their host but those aren’t the ones that we really want to focus on in the garden. It really is about those mutual benefit type relationship. We are going to talk about fungi and the neat thing for me about fungi is that it is really unique in terms of the way it grows and the type of organism it is. It actually doesn’t fit in to any sort of trees within the kingdom, does it? Yeah fungi are very unique and they tend to be detritivores. They break down dead material but some species, like mycorrhizae, they actually form an association with the roots of most plant species. Up to 85% of them. It’s really interesting because fungi don’t really fit into any category and they are actually closer to animal then they are to plants. Really interesting too that they can be an organism that doesn’t have a defined shape, they can actually morph to their environment. And I can’t really think of anything else in the world that does that. Really interesting. So, for me the first time I was ever introduced to mycorrhizae was in university in the 90’s in my forestry course. What they were finding was that clear-cut logging was making it so that trees wouldn’t regrow and then they realized that there was an important relationship between the trees and these fungi species. Yeah so, mycorrhizae, they form a symbiotic relationship like we said, with about 85% of plant species, and they actually will… there’s different types, but in general they fuse with the different plants and then they grow and forage through the soil. They are much better than most plant roots that solubilizing nutrients especially phosphorus, and they can absorb that and then they exchange it with their plant host for carbohydrates because they don’t have the energy to produce sugars themselves because they don’t photosynthesize. Yeah, it’s the biggest free trade zone in the world in the soil, isn’t it? There are a lot of these interactions happening. I think what’s really interesting in terms of fungi in the plant relationship is that when a lot of the viewers look at their plant roots, if they ever pull anything out of a container or even out of the soil, you really see these fine hairs and you think “wow this is a really extensive network” but mycorrhizae take it to a whole new level, don’t they? Oh yeah certainly. And they can expand, what you would call the effective root area, by severalfold. They are very fine filaments which means they are able to penetrate between soil particles and areas where most plant roots can’t get to. That’s the thing, the expansion of that root structure that plants get from fungi is definitely a huge beneficial part of the relationship for them. And like you said it’s a two-way street. They are finding that water that plants can’t access, and in return are paying them off in carbohydrates. You know it’s always a transaction in the soil. That’s the really interesting thing that everything happens for a reason and plants actually sort of dictate, to a certain extent, what happens around their root structure. Interestingly enough, there’s more evidence now that fungi actually can impact almost an entire ecosystem that grows around them because of all the things they do in the soil and how they control their environment. You know, lots of interesting stuff there. Exactly, they are starting to find in forests that… they are starting to call mycorrhizae natures internet, where all the trees and plant species within a forest can be connected through this fungal network and there is communication, beyond nutritional and acquiring water, but there can be signalling between plants Yeah it’s absolutely amazing. Now what we’ve got is, like I said, I learned about mycorrhizae in terms of forestry, but it has a really big place in agriculture too because in agricultural systems we’ve done a lot of destruction of the soil layer by tilling and different ways we’ve farmed over the years. We are seeing how mycorrhizae in the natural environment can actually be brought into a conventional agriculture system too. Yeah most mycorrhizae, native mycorrhizae species, are actually quite slow growing. So in typical agriculture where they are cultivating fields on an annual basis or sometimes multiple times a year, they’re breaking down that mycorrhizae, they’re breaking all those filaments, and they can be quite slow to regrow. Often crops, there are some that depend highly on mycorrhizae, like I always give the example of flax, it really depends on mycorrhizae. Especially for early season phosphorus nutrition in the crop and if you have done excessive cultivation or you have planted a crop that does not form mycorrhizae associations prior to that flax, it will really suffer. I think the interesting thing is that grasslands are generally dominated more by bacteria verses forests which are a more of a up and progressive chain in terms of how an environment develops. The forests are actually more dominated by the fungi. It’s sort of like the turtle winning the race almost, because they do have a very slow growth pattern. Interestingly enough, that actually segues really nicely into a bit of a talk about Synergy which is Grotek’s mycorrhizae. Now Synergy is really interesting because one of the benefits is that it will actually recolonize quickly after disruption, which is very unique, but there is a couple of other properties about synergy as well. Yeah, Synergy is a unique species. Like I said, most native species they grow quite slow and so they’re maybe not going to be the most effective, especially if they are growing in a potted environment and inoculating one of these. Whereas Synergy, is a very rapidly growing species so it can be effective in short cycle crop and container growing. Yeah and so that fast acting ability is really essential. The neat thing about Synergy is also that it was cultured from a salt flat. So, a very saline environment and that has a huge impact as well. Yeah exactly. Which means that that species thrives under a salty environment which, for a lot of growers out there, that translates into EC and a higher EC. Like we mentioned, there’s this mutual benefit but there is also an exchange in these symbiotic relationships. So, it is a metabolic cost to the plant to be feeding carbohydrates. Quite often under high fertility conditions the plant won form those associations because it doesn’t need to depend on that mycorrhizae. What’s interesting about synergy it’s a species that thrives under higher fertility conditions higher dissolved salts things like that. I know the one that really stood out to me in the research when we were evaluating this product was the fact that market sized lettuce could be grown at an EC of 4, which is probably about 2 to 3 times as high as it should be for lettuce. It really does sort of help a plant through a really salty environment which is a very unique thing about the species. Another thing too, getting back to your rapid colonization, is the face that it produces smaller but more spores when its actually travelling out into the media as well. Which allows us to have a product with a much higher spore count compared to most competitors’ varieties. It also means that it can be ground into a very fine powder and put through irrigation systems. Also too, when the roots of the plants are actually growing through your soil or media, they’re going to encounter those spores more often because they are more spread out and like you said it grows more quickly once it’s ready to go. So those two things together mean a more rapid uptake within the system. Which for a lot of gardeners that are in short cycled annual plants, that’s a big deal. Synergy really stands out as a really good opportunity for growers to add biology that can really take that crop to the next level. Yeah, and I know in our own in-house trials I have seen better nutrient uptake, better stress tolerance in plants as well. Because of that larger effective root area, they are also more drought tolerant. Yeah, I mean, there are so many benefits and I invite all of our viewers today to go out and find some synergy and give it a try.

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