The Benefit of Fungal Spores

Types of fungal spores. The sizes vary from microscopic to visable..

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal (AMF) are dependent on the plant for their food, therefore, they die when the plant dies. Lucky for us before they die they form spores that can live a long time in the soil.

When we have looked at the soil from vineyards in winter it is filled with fungal spores. Pictured here of some of the types of AMF spores. The size of these spores can vary from microscopic to visible.

The spore starts growing when it receives a chemical message from a nearby plant. It has a day or two to reach the plant, enter the root and build a little space called an arbuscule where it can get food from the plant. If it fails at this, the fungi dies. This is why we like to plant seeds with AMF. The plant feeds the fungi because the fungi send out long hair like structures called hyphae that bring minerals and water back to the plant. In fact, scientists have recently shown that the fungi and the plant actually barter with one another, i.e. when phosphorus is low, the fungi gets more food for delivery of phosphorus.

microBIOMETER® measures both fungi and fungal spores as well as bacteria. The lab methods of PLFA and Carbon Fumigation do not adequately measure spores. Standard microscopy also does not adequately measure fungi.

Analyzing your Fungal to Bacterial Ratio Results

Source: Food Web and Soil Health

The graph pictured here from the USDA website depicts the ratio of fungi to bacteria as a characteristic of the type of system it is in. An excerpt from the article:

“Grasslands and agricultural soils usually have bacterial-dominated food webs – that is, most biomass is in the form of bacteria. Highly productive agricultural soils tend to have ratios of fungal to bacterial biomass near 1:1 or somewhat less. Forests tend to have fungal-dominated food webs. The ratio of fungal to bacterial biomass may be 5:1 to 10:1 in a deciduous forest and 100:1 to 1000:1 in a coniferous forest.”

If you are measuring soil attached to the roots colonized by mycorrhizal fungi, your ratios should be much higher than is shown for agricultural soil. Also the saprophytic fungi population increases when there is a lot of litter for digestion, so you would expect to see different ratios at different times of the year and under different conditions.

The graph pictured below based on USDA website information shows the expected fungal to bacterial ratio for various plants.

Please visit our Using the Fungal to Bacterial Ratio with microBIOMETER® on YouTube for more information on fungal to bacterial analysis.