Are No-Fun Fungi Keeping Fertilizer from Plants?


Crops just can’t do without phosphorus.

Crops just can’t do without phosphorus.

Globally, more than 45 million tons of phosphorus fertilizer are expected to be used in 2019. But only a fraction of the added phosphorus will end up being available to crops.

Mary Tiedeman sampling soils in limestone outcroppings within the hardwood hammock area of FIU-Nature Preserve. Photo credit Megan Lenahan.The impact is two-fold: financial and environmental. “Fertilizer costs are significant for farmers in south Florida,” says Tiedeman. “And phosphorus rock, the most widely used source of phosphorus fertilizer, is in low supply across the globe. It is thought that phosphorus rock resources will only be available for the next 50 to 200 years.”

Tiedeman is exploring whether a rarely-studied process involving soil fungi could contribute to low phosphorus availability to plants in south Florida. This research could also help unravel how land use influences fungal communities in soil. It may also help us better understand vital soil-phosphorus dynamics.

Read more at American Society of Agronomy

Image: Different fungal species isolated from native and disturbed soils within Florida International University's Miami campus and Everglades National Park. (Credit: Photo credit Mary Tiedeman)