Soil Biology: Fungi Part VI - How to use it?

Pro tips to maximize the use of a fungi product

The overuse of mycorrhizal fungi products can get very expensive. Not only is it expensive, but overuse of fungi can lead to biological imbalance, disallowing the inoculation of other beneficial bacteria and fungi. Over fungal dominance in the soil can also lead to Mycelium buildup. This is part of the fungal culture that exists on the surface of the soil. When allowed to become overpopulated, this mycelium will form a hydrophobic crispy crust on the surface of the soil, disallowing hydro-penetration causing water and nutrients to simply runoff and flow down the sides of the raised bed or container or sit on top of the soil and evaporate off. This can quickly lead to desiccation of beneficial bacterial colonies as well as root necrosis (death). 

So what’s the best way to use fungi so you can avoid these issues as well as save money? First, you must understand that mycorrhizae need two things to become viable. First, they need a media substrate, preferably peat moss due to its mineral content. Secondly, they require a living root to communicate with and bind to in order to proliferate and thrive. Plant roots and mycorrhizal fungi form a symbiotic relationship by which they both benefit from each other equally with no one individual benefiting more from the relationship than the other. We can use this to our advantage. 

The best time to apply mycorrhizal fungi to maximize effect is during transplant. The reason this is best is because when used in transplant (directly sprinkled into the transplant well), the roots actually take the fungi along for the ride as they grow outwards, coating the entire root surface. This not only maximizes vigor, but it alleviates transplant stress, maximizes nutrient uptake and mobilization, and protects these roots as they grow outward into the unknown. 

The next best time to use fungi is as either a top dressing that is “finger-tilled” in or as a root drench. But here is the catch; applying fungi any later than week 6 is generally a waste of time and money. Fungi can take up to 2 weeks to become established in the system and begin benefiting the plant, so if you’re harvesting week 8-9, then you’ll be wasting your money applying the Fungi weeks 6-7. However, if you’re going to re-use or recycle your soil (or if you’re outdoors) then you can apply Fungi all the way through the lifecycle because those spores will help the rhizosphere for your next round!

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