There are groups of bacteria that can be of fundamental help for fungi and plants to acquire nutrients from the soil, essential for their survival. This is the discovery made by a group of scientists from the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI). This discovery, according to the statement issued by the same institute, could be useful for devising new ecological methods to make the soil better for crops and reduce the use of traditional fertilizers.
Specifically, the researchers found that two species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, i.e. fungi that establish relationships with the roots of plants, are characterized by the presence of colonies of bacteria that live along some of its filament structures called hyphae. It is through these long structures that the fungi can extend away from the plant and reach the ground. The researchers found that these communities of bacteria are very similar to those of the surrounding soil.
According to Maria Harrison, one of the scientists involved in the study, this means that the hyphae of fungi have their own unique microbiomes, as well as many organs or areas of the human body, starting with the intestine. According to the researcher, among the functions that these bacteria have is to acquire phosphate from the soil, an important nutrient for fungi but also for plants.
Researchers carried out their studies on two species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, Glomus versiforme and Rhizophagus irregularis. They cultivated these mushrooms in three different types of soil by making them enter into symbiosis with a herbaceous plant related to the wheat plant, the Brachypodium distachyon.
After 65 days, the researchers performed gene sequencing to figure out which bacteria were attached to the hyphae of the fungi, finding remarkable consistency in bacterial composition with soil communities. «We expect some of these bacteria to release phosphorus ions in the immediate vicinity of the filaments, giving the fungus the best chance of capturing those ions,» Harrison reports. «Learning which bacteria have this function could be the key to improving the phosphate acquisition process of fungi for the benefit of plants.»