Nutrient Uptake

Despite the differences in associations among mycorrhizal types, the function of all mycorrhizal systems depends on the ability of the fungal mycelium to absorb available inorganic or organic nutrients from the soil and translocate them to the host roots (Smith and Read 1997). Hyphae outside the root may form an extensive network extending several centimeters from the root surface (Friese and Allen 1991), enabling plants to obtain resources well beyond depletion zones (Nye and Tinker 1977) and to forage effectively for patchily distributed resources (Cui and Caldwell 1996). Fine, highly branched hyphae increase the absorptive surface area of the root (Harley and Smith 1983; Rousseau et al. 1994), produce enzymes for mineralization of nutrient sources that are normally unavailable to plants (Abuzinadah and Read 1986; Bauer et al. 2000), and because of their extremely fine diameter they are considerably less expensive than roots. As a result, mycorrhizal plants undergo physiological changes which include increased rates of growth and seed production, increased nutrient status, enhanced water uptake and drought tolerance, and improved resistance to plant pathogens.

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