Updated on: Thursday, October 24, 2019, 08:17 PM IST

Say bye to fertilizers with Fungi

The organisms in fungi have the potential to boost key nutrients in crop and may make them less reliant on harmful chemicals and pesticides
Representational image |

Representational image |


Washington: There’s no denying that fertilisers take a toll on our crops and add to the ongoing climate crisis. But the solution to the problem has been found in small organisms — Fungi! Yes, these organisms when added to wheat were known to boost the uptake of key nutrients and could lead to new, ‘climate smart’ varieties of crops, according to a new study published in the journal ‘Global Change Biology’.

Researchers demonstrated a partnership between wheat and soil fungi that could be utilised to develop new food crops and farming systems which are less reliant on fertilisers, reducing their contribution to the escalating climate crisis.

Fungi continued to provide nutrients under higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) predicted for 2100, which has important implications for future food security. “Fungi could be a valuable new tool to help ensure future food security in the face of the climate and ecological crises,” said lead researcher Professor Katie Field, from the University of Leeds’ School of Biology and Global Food and Environment Institute.

“These fungi are not a silver bullet for improving productivity of food crops, but they have the potential to help reduce our current overreliance on agricultural fertilisers,” Field added.

Most plants form partnerships with fungi in their root systems, known as arbuscular mycorrhizas, which enable them to draw nutrients from the soil more efficiently.

In exchange, the plants provide carbohydrates to the fungi as a form of payment, known as a symbiosis. Plants can give 10-20 per cent of the carbon they draw from the air to their fungal partners, in exchange for up to 80 per cent of their required phosphorous intake.

These fungi can also help plants increase their growth, nitrogen levels, water uptake, and defend the plant against pests and disease.

“For thousands of years, farmers have been breeding crops to increase productivity and disease resistance, but this has mainly been based on what can be seen above ground,” said co-author Dr Tom Thirkell, University of Leeds’ School of Biology.

“Our results suggest there is real potential to breed new crop varieties which regain this lost relationship with beneficial fungi, and improve the sustainability of future food production systems,” he added.


(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Published on: Thursday, October 24, 2019, 08:17 PM IST