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Mycorrhizae for the desert
A very interesting publication about mycorrhizae and desert plants by Angela M. O’Callaghan, Ph.D., Southern Area Social Horticulture Specialist, University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension
July 26, 2015
4:29 am
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
Forum Posts: 174
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May 6, 2015
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When plants live in challenging locations, they often develop mechanisms to help them survive. These include morphological characteristics such as thickened, small or narrow leaves to reduce water loss, slowing the plant's growth rate, or developing a tolerance for high salts and low levels of nutrients. One important set of survival mechanisms involves creating mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationships between plant roots and soil-borne organisms such as bacteria and fungi. ...

There's a great description of mycorrhizae and then more desert specifics:

What do mycorrhizae do?

Nutrients and water

Mycorrhizae are essential in areas where soils are deficient in water and certain nutrients - conditions that are found in the desert. Even when there is an ample amount of a nutrient, it may not be readily accessible to the plant. A dramatically larger root system (or mycorrhizae) permits the plant to obtain additional moisture and nutrients. This is particularly important in uptake of phosphorus, one of the major nutrients required by plants.

When mycorrhizae are present, plants are less susceptible to water stress. Not only do the fungal threads help to bring water and nutrition into the plant, but they also can store them for use when rainfall is sparse and temperatures are high. When organic matter (compost) is added to improve a soil, mycorrhizae are important in making its nutrients available. The
residual organic matter and the hyphae improve the structure of the soil.

Recent research indicates that the fungi even help break down rock, increasing availability of the essential nutrients within, such as potassium, calcium, zinc and magnesium.


The difference in the size of the root ball is quite impressive.

Disease resistance

Mycorrhizae also help the plant resist infection by other fungi and even bacteria. This may be because the plant, being better nourished, is healthier and has better resistance to the invader. It may also be that the large physical presence of one fungus impedes infection by others. Another possibility is that either the plant or the fungus produces compounds that prevent
infection by pathogens.

Interaction with other soil microbes — a cycle of benefit

Desert plants interact with other organisms in the soil. Many of these microorganisms fertilize plants by "fixing" nitrogen, which is then available for plant growth. When mycorrhizae are present, the number and vitality of these nitrogen fixers increase. As a result, the plant‘s health and vigor improves, as does the health and vigor of the beneficial fungi.

I'm going to have to find out which mycorrhizae to apply for bird of paradise, mimosas and black locusts.

Will any fungus form mycorrhizae?

Many fungi will form associations with plants, and many plants will form mycorrhizal associations. These interactions appear to be plant- and fungus-specific. Not all mycorrhizae forming fungi will work with all desert plants. There are research reports which show that association with the "wrong" fungus actually decreases the health and vigor of the plant. Because there is a requirement for specific plant-fungus association, mycorrhizae can be important in reestablishing native species in areas where they have been lost.
Mycorrhizal fungi are available for sale from several sources.

Introducing mycorrhizal fungal spores (inoculation) is sometimes suggested to improve yields and plant vigor, particularly for container and landscape ornamentals. Inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi may not be a benefit unless it is specific to the plant, because there is a requirement for a specific fungus -plant interaction for optimum benefit. It would also be counterproductive to inoculate with a fungus that could strongly benefit a weedy species.

How do mycorrhizae get into a site?

Many desert soils already have mycorrhizal fungi present, at least in small amounts. Even
without inoculation, spores can be found in many desert locations. If host plants are grown
where there are spores of these fungi, then both thrive. The mycorrhizal fungi may continue to
survive even after the original host is no longer present.

Does anyone have info on which type of mycorrhizae we can buy for specific desert plants?

I also want to try to grow desert mycorrhizae and have to find the YouTube video on that again.

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July 26, 2015
4:38 am
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
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May 6, 2015
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Aspects of Mycorrhizae in Desert Plants


Mycorrhizal symbioses are critical to desert plants since they face the challenges of scarce, sporadic precipitation, nutrient deficiencies, intense solar radiation, and the high temperatures found in hot deserts. Deserts are covering increasingly more of the Earth's surface area as desertification increases globally. Mycorrhizal desert plants have a greater chance of survival in the harsh desert environment. Desert plants form mycorrhizae with endomycorrhizal arbuscular fungi and with ectomycorrhizal fungi. Both form extensive networks of hyphae in the soil, and glomalin, a glycoprotein produced by hyphae of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, is crucial in soil structure and carbon storage. Mycorrhizal desert plants are important in agriculture, ecosystem biology, and conservation of the deserts.

I'm sure that would be an interesting read, but $219 for the ebook?

That's not in my budget.

July 26, 2015
8:36 pm
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July 21, 2015
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There are 2 main types of Mycorrhizae this pdf file talks about them & tells how to make your own.

I did find that endotropic vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal (VAM) is the most common in desert plant & is far more prevalent in the perennial than the annual plants. Not sure what that all means or if its relevant!

I bought from Amazon & used in transplanting this summer Xtreme gardening Mykos mycorrhizal inoculant. Used very little of it, did seem to help with transplant shock.

July 26, 2015
10:28 pm
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
Forum Posts: 174
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May 6, 2015
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Thanks so much for that link, more great info.  They say it takes 3 months and this winter we want to plant our fruit trees.  Would love to grow my own mycorrhizae for them.  

I have been using about 50% native soil for potted plants intended to go in the ground so that plants avoid that OUCH moment when they hit native dirt after transplant.  From now on I'll try to get that native dirt from around local plants instead of just anywhere and that should get us a good start right there.

You might have bought the same mycorrhizae on Amazon that I got, will post the actual product in a new topic.  It contains only one kind and I just found out that it's associated with cannabis.  I think marijuana is a nightshade, so it probably works for tomatoes, peppers, etc.   I also used it to transplant, have no idea whether it helped -- everything's so chaotic here. 

Recently bought another mycorrhizae product at Peaceful Valley with 4 varieties, will post that too.

Last night I read a paper summarizing previous mycorrhizae and desert plants studies by Mohamed Al-Whaibi is in Saudi Arabia.  Unfortunately, I only know the common names for the many plants he mentions, but it's a good start with the many references to other studies.    Since we do permaculture, I'd like to help the native plants and whatever we bring in.

Mohamed's English isn't that great (I could have proof-read and fixed everything for $20) and  keep in mind that "tow" really is "two":

I had to sign up at Academia to get access to the paper, but it's well worth the effort for LOTS of great info and the references to studies on mycorrhizae, nutrient uptake and drought tolerance.

January 18, 2016
12:56 pm
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
Forum Posts: 174
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May 6, 2015
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An excellent mycorrhizae primer by Tim Wilson:

A MUST READ before you buy anything!  I've followed Tim's posts in the AACT group for years and truly respect his opinions.

... Thankfully there are people like David Douds who have outlined for growers methods of producing one’s own local mycorrhizal spores/propagules. Here are some links and see the attached PDF. ... ouds.shtml

It is still so chaotic here, hope I'll have time to try growing our own this year.

... one can get (in bulk) powder based products at a spore/propagule count of 3200 per gram 1,452,800 per pound or a liquid product at 2,000,000 spores/propagules per litre (available as agricultural products > ). ...

I checked the site and of course they don't sell directly.  I found their gardener site:, but they also don't retail.  About a quart is enough for 32 veggie transplants.

I think it's sold at Amazon, although the packaging is different:

It's $18.41 for 1.4 quarts with free shipping and WAY TOO EXPENSIVE to transplant 50 or so veggie plants.   And I can't find any info on spore counts and just emailed the seller for more info.  I'll also see about their minimum direct sales at Myke's.

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