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will soil fungus spread nutrients?

 
dan long
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If i were to put a compost pile on one side of my garden would the other side get fertilized as well? What if i want to apply some compost to my strawberries but i don't want to drop a pig pile of fecal matter on top of my low growing crop? Can i theoretically spread it on one side of the raised bed and let the fungus do the work?

This idea comes from (forgett his name) talking about hugelkulture beds and saying that fungus will take carbon from some source over there, nitrogen from somethng over there, calcium from a bone at the bottom of the pile, iron from the rusty bolt that fell off your tractor last year, etc etc, and make it available to the plants.

On the other had, if fungus was THAT efficient, then we wouldn't have to worry about nitrogen leeching out of soil during rain because the fungus would just bring it back.

What am I missing here?

I realy like the idea of planting stuff outside of the food forest where the chickens, dogs, ducks, fish pond and maybe rabbits will be hanging out, and having them benefit from the steady manue supply. I just dont understand if this would really happen.
 
John Elliott
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That was me that brought up the transport of nutrients by fungi. And you've got the general idea correct.

One reason that this doesn't work in conventional farming with tillage, is that every time you till, you break up the strands of sub-terranean hyphae. A lot get killed when they are exposed to the sun or dry out. They can't do much transporting until they grow back, and fungi are slow growers unless they have just the right conditions -- then they can grow really fast.

But once you have a hugelbed established and the transport mechanisms of the fungi are working, yes, you can fertilize here and some of it will get transported over there. Notice I said "some", because most of the nutrients that you have dropped will be taken up by plant roots and soil critters in that area. Fungi may be efficient, but they don't get first dibs, and if something else gets to the nutrient first, then oh well.

The other thing to consider is the nutrient in question. Potassium is a very soluble nutrient, unlikely to pool up in one area, so plants and fungi just expect it to be around and have not evolved tranport mechanisms for it. On the other hand, phosphorus is a nutrient that can sit in one area, like a decomposing cow bone, and plants and fungi have to go looking for it. The transport and availability of phosphorus in the soil and how it is assisted by fungi is quite an active area of research.
 
Jose Reymondez
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Location: Galicia, Spain Zone 9
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I'm glad this was brought up because I was actually thinking of making something like mycelial highways. I am going to take sticks, wood chips, logs, dead leaves, etc and lay them out in paths or tunnels, so to speak, perhaps partially buried, in order to connect areas of cultivation (mostly pieces of forest garden), just with the idea of getting everything communicating fungally.
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
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Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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What you're asking about is actually a special kind of fungi called "mycorhiza". I wouldn't go so far as to say that they can suck nutrients out of a compost pile several meters away (unless we're talking about a tree), but they do improve the ability of plant roots to absorb virtually all nutrients from the soil (including N), and also improve resistance to pests, disease, drought and so on. As John mentioned, tillage is very bad for them, but soluble phosphorous fertilizers (superphosphate, triple superphosphate) also inhibit their growth and chemical nitrogen fertilizers do bad things to soil pH which is also bad for soil microbes. Certain bacteria can also fix nitrogen with plant roots (and not just legumes) and can cut nitrogen fertilization requirements in half. This is actually used fairly widely in developing countries where conventional fertilizers are too expensive.
 
dan long
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John Elliott wrote:That was me that brought up the transport of nutrients by fungi. And you've got the general idea correct.

One reason that this doesn't work in conventional farming with tillage, is that every time you till, you break up the strands of sub-terranean hyphae. A lot get killed when they are exposed to the sun or dry out. They can't do much transporting until they grow back, and fungi are slow growers unless they have just the right conditions -- then they can grow really fast.



Straight from the man himself! Thank you so much for answering my thread. I don't plan on doing any tilling beyond initally digging trenches for hugelkulture. It's not ideal, but I would otherwise have to buy soil and have it trucked up the the farm. Once the fungus is reestablished, i should be in business then!

I was talking with my father about fertilizing strawberries the other day. I asked how he fertilizes without dropping manure on the strawberries. He replied that he goes out and buys fertilizer pellets (boo! shame!) We will have to have a talk about letting the fungus do its job so that we don't have to do it instead.
 
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