Approximately 90% of all plant species are associated with fungal species forming mutually beneficial mycorrhizal relationships. It has been well documented that mycorrhizal fungi improve plant growth, health and tolerance to adverse growing conditions such as acid soils, drought and heavy metals. Mycorrhizal fungi are an essential component of the soil ecosystem and provide an intimate link with both crop and indigenous plants. Several different mycorrhizal types are found and are broadly divided into endomycorrhizas and ectomycorrhizas (ECM).
Arbuscular mycorrhizas (AM) are the most common group of the endomycorrhizas forming a unique morphology within the root cortex. These fungi are classified under the Glomeromycota and associate with a wide variety of crop and herbaceous plants. The ECM on the other hand are more restricted forming an association with tree species such as Pines, Eucalyptus and Oaks. The fungal partners are generally members of the Basidiomycotina with some Ascomycotina and Zygomycota representatives.
The Mycorrhizal Research Group has a broad interest in mycorrhizal fungi encompassing arbuscular mycorrhizal, ectomycorrhizal and ericoid mycorrhizal fungi. Of particular interest is their characterisation and identification; interaction with other soil microorganisms both beneficial and pathogenic; function and role of glomalin (a glycoprotein produced by AM fungi) and its potential as a soil health indicator; development of commerical inoculum for use in the agricultural, horticultural and environmental rehabiliation industries; and development of commerically produced edible mycorrhizal fungi such as the Kalahari truffle.
Mycoroot is a commercial product developed and produced in Grahamstown containing indigenous southern African strains of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (further information can be obtained at www.mycoroot.com).