The Benefits and Purpose of Mycorrhizae

December 3, 2020

When people start to talk about mycorrhizae, the first question is what is mycorrhizae? Mycorrhizae are a complex of fungi that form relationships with plant roots. They form filaments, called hyphae, that attach to the plant roots. The filaments help draw nutrients from the soil that the root system would not be able to access otherwise.1 These fungi occur naturally in soil.

The fungi allow the plants to draw more nutrients and water from the soil. It has been found that these fungi can also help to increase the plant's tolerance to different environmental stresses. Benefits they can provide include:

  • Quicker plant establishment
  • Increased access to water and nutrients beyond the root zone
  • Improvement in drought tolerance through increased access to water
  • Improve nutrient availability by breaking down rock
  • Can help build and maintain soil quality and structure
  • Can help plants grow in soils with high concentrations of salt and toxic metals

One benefit that stands out and is somewhat of a unique trait of mycorrhizae is their ability to find and modify nutrients found in the soil and transform them into a usable form that the plant can uptake and use. A good example of this is when an ammonium-based fertilizer is applied and the mycorrhizae transforms it into a nitrate form that the plant can readily uptake.2 In conclusion, as a naturally growing soil fungi, the mycorrhizae provide several benefits to plants. This, in turn, helps the plant receive other nutrients that the plant could not get otherwise. It is very important for soil structure and crop production.

Michael Mullins



1Ellis, J.R. 1998. Post flood syndrome and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Journal of Production Agriculture. Vol. 11, no. 2: 200-204.
2O’Callagan, A.M. Mycorrhizae. Fact Sheet 01-29. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
Miller, R.M. and Jastrow, J.D. 2000. Mycorrhizal fungi influence soil structure. Chapter 1. Environmental Research Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois.
Busenbark, B. 2018. Mycorrhizae – features, advantages and benefits for growers. Mycorrhizal Applications. https://mycorrhizae.com/.

Web sites verified 10/12/2020

Performance may vary, from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower’s fields.

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