“Mycorrhiza” project completed
Beneficial soil fungi contribute to improving ecosystem functions and can be used agriculturally.
Arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF) are a common type of soil fungi that live in symbiotic communities with many plants, including crop plants. They provide a variety of services in soil ecosystems such as improved nutrient availability, soil fertility and soil structure. The aim was to develop methods and concepts for the use of beneficial soil fungi in agriculture. Researchers of the “Mycorrhiza” project, carried out by Marcel van der Heijden of Agroscope, developed a new molecular method to characterise these fungi in the field. Using this method, they showed that the fungi can establish themselves in the field and that inoculated soils can produce higher yields (improvements of up to 90% for clover, from -5% to +14% for maize). They also showed that inoculated wheat plants are more resistant to harmful insects and therefore have a better chance of survival.
The researchers developed the novel concept of "soil ecological engineering", which incorporates tools for more sustainable farming. The key aspect of this approach is that desirable soil properties can be encouraged by suitable soil management and beneficial soil organisms.