15 May 2019

Call centres of life

A hidden plant-fungal switchboard exists under our feet.

Microscope image of mycorrhizas

Beneath the ground, within the soil, an important hidden fungal network exists that connects plants through their roots.

This fungal network is formed by mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi are associated with the roots of around 90 per cent of plant species, forming a special partnership known as symbiosis.

They effectively extend the root systems, allowing plants to take up water and nutrients beyond the roots and root hairs, while the plants, in exchange, provide the fungi with carbohydrates from photosynthesis. This network system is crucial for plant survival and growth but it is threatened by human activities and climate change.

Dr Laura Martinez-Suz, Research Leader in Mycology, shines a light on the plant-fungal ‘switchboard’ under our feet in this filmed talk.

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