Researchers have found that soil fungi have the potential to replace fertilisers. Work carried out at the University of Leeds has shown for the first time that fungi, which form associations with plant roots, provide significant amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen to crops. As the report states, “Fungi provide nutrients, even under the highest levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) predicted for 2100; which has important implications for future food security.” The finding, first reported in Global Change Biology, could potentially help reduce our reliance on fertilisers and contribute to tackling the climate crisis.
Co-author, Tom Thirkell, said, “We are beginning to realise that some of the crops we have tamed lack important connections with fungi in the soil. Our results suggest that there is real potential to generate new crop varieties; that recover this lost relationship with beneficial fungi and improve the sustainability of future food production systems.”
The study involved scientists causing fungi to the colonise roots of three different varieties of wheat in laboratory chambers that either imitated current weather conditions or those projected for 2100.
Photo: University of Cambridge