The Farm as Ecosystem: Tapping Nature’s Reserve—Biology, Geology, Diversity
Mycorrhizal fungi are mutualistic fungi that grow among the root systems of plants. This mutualistic association provides the fungus with relatively constant and direct access to carbohydrates, such as glucose and sucrose, translocated from their source (usually leaves) to root tissue and on to the plant’s fungal partners. In return, the plant gains the benefits of the fungi’s higher absorptive capacity for water and mineral nutrients due to the comparatively large surface area of the fungal filaments, thus improving the plant’s mineral absorption capabilities.
In 2013, researchers at the University of Aberdeen discovered an amazing communication phenomenon amongst plants that are symbiotically partnered with mycorrhizal fungi. They found that beans whose root systems were “wired” with a vigorous network of mycorrhizal fungi were able to mount a defense against predators, synthesizing repellents against aphids and sending out volatile emissions as signals to predatory wasps, calling in an air strike against the wasps’ favorite prey, the aphids. Beans not connected to plants via fungal hyphae that were challenged by aphids did not get an early warning of the impending pest and thus became easy prey to the aphids.
Mycorrhizal fungi are a major player in The Farm as Ecosystem. Brunetti focuses on practices that encourage the growth of mycorrhizae, thus helping plants defend themselves, and lowering the need for pesticides. And if a plant does have a problem with predatory insects or soil-bound parasitic nematodes, Brunetti offers a wide range of natural solutions, most of which work to strengthen the plant’s immune system.
Soil science is a complicated subject but Brunetti’s systematic discussion of the three aspects of healthy soil—structure, mineral content and biodiversity—make it easy to understand. Topics covered include soil testing, trace elements, compounds that help plants protect themselves from pests, foliar nutrition, earthworms, water, pollinators, predators and cover crops. Brunetti ends with a vision of what agriculture can be like once it is wrested from the clutches of the corporate, chemical mentality. Highly recommended!
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2014🖨️ Print post