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Merging mycrorrhizal networks

 
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I have a question about using mycrorrhizal fungi inoculant on roots of both trees and annuals.  The scenario is a primary orchard in a silvopasture/agriforst design.  The trees will be planted in a swale system (on contour, of course.)  The swales will be about 60 feet apart.  The trees will be inoculated when planted.  The strips between swales will be pasture with nitrogen fixing deep rooted species, to fight compaction and improve nitrogen content.  

My question is:  If both the trees and vegatation is inoculated to form there own colonies, I am hoping for more rapid improvement in all plant growth and soil health.  However, I don't know if I am setting up competing networks (although they will take years to reach one another); or if they will fill in and become symbiotic to one another? The concern is my trees are of primary importance.  This is first and foremost an orchard, with the plant life - livestock cycle improving overall health of the soil; and accelerating soil regeneration to support the trees.

Bonus question:  I have heard many people advocate root pruning agriforests to keep the trees from competing with intercrop species.  That seems intuitive from a traditional agricultural aspect; but counter to good permaculture.  By pruning the roots, one breaks the fungal network, limiting the benefit of the key mycelium network.  I would think a more appropriate permaculture response would be let the forest be a savanah and don't disturb the network the plants decide is appropriate.  

Thoughts from the fungi experts?  
 
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they will fill in and become symbiotic to one another.
They will not compete with each other. Each will communicate with the other.
Allow the networks to expand. You will know when they are connected as you will see the growth and health increase. In nature, they will cooperate with each other over vase areas and forests.
I would not prune the roots re your second question. You are on the right track.
Let me know I this helps. I am happy to be of service. It is wonderful to see folks understand this and begin to take more care of or soil.
 
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I've wondered the same Jack. Good question. And have no real answers. But i gladly jump to the chance of complicating things even further.

So you've got differing mycorrhizal fungi you're going to help different plant species with. You'd like the whole network to become one giant web helping each other and not competing? It would be nice, but i doubt that is possible or necessary. They're different species, they will fight for their own system as well as trade out when mutually beneficial.
So imagine one wins, the other system dies, it will still feed the soil food web.
But maybe they won't kill each other, the smaller ones will stay closer to the smaller nitrogen fixers, no problem for the trees.
But imagine the fungi attributed to the nitrogenfixers do have a great run. They'll grow your nitrogenfixers to a great biomass drop, temporarily that fungi dominates and the fruit tree fungi is waiting in the back ground, but does have a giant come back in spring because it's tremendously fast at colonising fresh biomass when the nitrogen fixer is still resting and you have a record harvest after first not so much gains for the fruit trees.
In that scenario there has been competition but over time they benefit each other in ways unimagined.

The important thing is that the fruit trees have that beneficial fungi in the first place, it's inoculation that is important.

I'm not claiming to be an expert, far from, but i doubt the experts know something solid about your specific situation and therefore chose to ignore your post.
I've been transplanting bits of earth i gathered from giant  healthy local trees and dispersed it in water all over my garden and into my compost. So that's fungi,bacteria, nematodes, arthropods, protozoa, diseases, the whole spectrum. Very complex fight going on, but i've got the feeling something has boosted growth seriously in my garden. Complexity makes for robust ecosystems is the thought. Works for me.



 
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I hoping one of the experts still drops by but in case that doesn't happen for a bit let me chime in.  It is my belief that the universe is by its nature symbiotic. It simply takes more energy to compete with others than to work together, Fungi seem to mostly understand this. If you go to a forest and examine the soil you will find several different species of Mycrorrhizal fungi working together in the same soil sample. I see no reason that would behave differently in an artificial environment.
 
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You don't need to prune roots. Prune the above ground portion of the least favoured competitor, and that plant's roots will die back to match, releasing organic matter to nourish the most favoured competitors.
 
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Jack, like several things "it depends".

In a new area that has no soil life, I suspect the fungi will follow roots and be predictable. As the soil turns into a dynamic place, there is probably no way to predict the way fungi will colonize. Once they are there they will make war and peace and love and whatever. The first two years I inoculated and did all sorts of stuff. New areas get the same. Areas that have vibrant fungal life- you won't be moving the needle much with your interventions anyway. the only time I do much of anything in established areas is for mycoremediation, like if I am concerned about fusarium from some wood chips or I want a species of mushroom. And I still am a little questioning how much it does. I think IF you are inoculating with mycelium, you might promote that fungus. Buying spores to me is silly, there are so many around anyhow. Mushroom slurry, lightly blended, makes some sense to me. I also move around the base of stropharias after I cut them up, but they rarely seem to pop up. It's cheap and easy.

On root pruning, I am interested to hear from others. The idea that pruning the top and expecting the roots mirroring underground to die I don't think is accurate. There will be some decrease in root mass, but a tree is not going to give up a phosphate source (for instance) because you pruned the branch above it. Some trees may be more like that, but plant a fig and you will find roots 40' out from a 6' plant. Woodier trees are more likely to behave that way- because they want to use their roots to recoup the nutrients lost in the leaves if that makes sense. Still I have sweetgum roots several crown diameters past the dripline.

People smarter than me prune roots (Mark Shepard). I got a bigger tractor specifically to subsoil to provide a keyline and root pruning function. That said, I don't think the evidence is tremendous, but anecdotally it works.
 
Jack Edmondson
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more details on the project in question, if anyone cares to see more detail:

https://permies.com/t/117237/Bacterial-Fungal-dominated-soil

I appreciate everyone's replies.  While there is no consensus I believe that the subject is far too complex to have one answer.  My inclination is to use as much local bacterial and fungal inoculant as I can harvest and let the micro-fauna kingdoms work it out.  I am interested to see what other opinion are expressed about the merging of mycillium networks.  I think that is an area that needs a lot more study.    
 
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Jack Edmondson wrote:I have a question about using mycrorrhizal fungi inoculant on roots of both trees and annuals.  The scenario is a primary orchard in a silvopasture/agriforst design.  The trees will be planted in a swale system (on contour, of course.)  The swales will be about 60 feet apart.  The trees will be inoculated when planted.  The strips between swales will be pasture with nitrogen fixing deep rooted species, to fight compaction and improve nitrogen content.  

My question is:  If both the trees and vegatation is inoculated to form there own colonies, I am hoping for more rapid improvement in all plant growth and soil health.  However, I don't know if I am setting up competing networks (although they will take years to reach one another); or if they will fill in and become symbiotic to one another? The concern is my trees are of primary importance.  This is first and foremost an orchard, with the plant life - livestock cycle improving overall health of the soil; and accelerating soil regeneration to support the trees.

Bonus question:  I have heard many people advocate root pruning agriforests to keep the trees from competing with intercrop species.  That seems intuitive from a traditional agricultural aspect; but counter to good permaculture.  By pruning the roots, one breaks the fungal network, limiting the benefit of the key mycelium network.  I would think a more appropriate permaculture response would be let the forest be a savanah and don't disturb the network the plants decide is appropriate.  

Thoughts from the fungi experts?  



This is a very good question Jack, allow me to give you some introspect as to how this will work in your situation. (Since you did ask for thoughts)

To start with, you didn't mention where you are getting the mycorrhizae from, so I am going to give you an example of using a broad spectrum (endomycorrhizae and exomycorrhizae in one handy packet).  
Gathered from the land fungi may or may-not be the fungi you are seeking, they aren't bad but they may not be the type to serve the functions you are looking for in fungi.

In most packets you will find around 12 species of each type of mycorrhizae spores, this is so the product can be used on trees, shrubs, bushes, vegetables, grasses, and root crops. Think of like a broad spectrum amendment, able to take care of a wide variety of species.
With in the family of trees we can break out hard woods and soft woods, then we can further break down hardwood fruit trees and hardwood lumber trees. Different species of mycorrhizae will populate each type of tree.
The same can be done for the soft woods, which include conifers and balsa, poplar, etc. Again different species of mycorrhizae will come into play.
Now the endomycorrhizae will not be connecting to any other tree, since these fungi live inside the root cells of the tree they inhabit, they have no opportunity to spread through out a forest unless there is root damage to their home tree.
The exomycorrhizae wrap around the exterior of the roots  and these will send tendrils of mycelium out into the open world, seeking to connect with others of their kind (not species but their scientific family).
When an exomycorrhizal species grows to the point of coming in contact with another of its family, they will intertwine and form synapses (much like nerve cells do but slightly different in nature of the connection) thus allowing a communication road to and from each of the plants they call home.
They will play nice together until a competitor fungi mycelium comes in contact, at which point the mycorrhizal mycelium  will send out chemical signals to determine if the new fellow is friend or foe.
If the new fellow on the block is a friend, all is well and they all will join by creating synapses. If the new fellow is a foe, then the chemicals change to toxins and the battle for dominance is on, winner take all (generally the mycorrhizae will win).

The same goes for all plants and plant types, the commercial packets come in specific and general use combinations, and each will tell you what they are to be used for.
I, myself like to use a generalist approach, so I purchase generalist packets of mycorrhizae and use them everywhere in the form of a spray.
When I plant a tree I loosen the soil at the outer edge of the root ball to expose healthy roots and sprinkle them with a hand held spray bottle filled with my myco solution, I also spray the inside of the planting hole.

Mycelium can, in near perfect conditions, grow up to 3 feet a week, they grow far faster than most people think because most of them form mats first then, with a good home base built they shoot out into the big world around their home base.
I have some trees that are 30 feet apart (pears) and it took 5 weeks for the mycorrhizal fungi to start spreading away from their home tree.
At that point it took 5 more weeks for them to bridge the two subject trees into a network that also included the beans, squashes and tomatoes which resided in straw bales 15 feet from the tree trunks.

Now about Root Pruning, It does work and there are some papers being written right now about how it works, why it works and incentives to use the method, I expect them to be published within the next month or so.
I personally do not practice root pruning, but then I'm not growing a large enough orchard to bother with it and my trees are spaced fairly well.

Redhawk
 
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Jack Edmondson wrote:However, I don't know if I am setting up competing networks (although they will take years to reach one another); or if they will fill in and become symbiotic to one another?



Not an expert, but a very interested amateur. From my understanding annuals are a more bacterial based soil life, while perennials and especially trees go to more fungal dominated. While the perennials and tress may be more dominated by fungi, the bacterial life tends to stay the same amount as the soils of annual soil type just with more fungi growth as the trees mature.

So should you worry about competitive fungi growth for inoculating both areas with different batches of inoculate?

I wouldn't think there would be a lot of worry about that. Everything I have read and seen points to healthy soil life will work well and figure itself out in the transition zones between annuals and trees. Forest meadows do quite well with no human help. A good soil ecosystem will likely just spread it's good life.

That said you might want to look at inoculates that have more than just fungi, since bacteria and other critters do still make up healthy tree soils as well as tend to be very important for the grasses and other annuals.

Again not an expert, so mileage might vary and my advice might be corrected by Redhawk or other experts.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Dr Redhawk, thank you for your input as always. I am installing 8 acres this year and next and will be using your advise. Sometime I will take pictures but I am terrible about it. I rarely carry a phone even when I am in berserker mode.

How do you measure your mycorrhizal distance? I haven't done so...
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Tj,

I used a plexiglass plate, 2 feet wide and 8 feet long (1/4" thick), this was installed as I planted the pear trees so I would be able to see how the root system developed as the trees settled into their permanent home.
Since I did inoculate their roots fairly heavily just to make sure they got the best start I could provide them, the mycelium were able to flourish and with my "window into the soil" I could make daily observations and take measurements fairly easily.
The other method of observing the fungal progress requires careful digging or plug taking, which is good, but I thought the window approach might be a good idea so I tried it, it was a woot! moment when it worked the way I imagined it would.

Redhawk
 
Tj Jefferson
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That is awesome! I love it! It's like the windows installed into the rumens of cows. Plexiglass for weed suppression and science!
 
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