Fascinating Fungi: Making Connections with Rhizocore Technologies
The Nature Trust has teamed up with start-up company Rhizocore Technologies for an innovative project using fungi to improve tree growth in our new native woodlands.
Something we don’t often think about lies below our feet, almost invisible but essential for the survival of many trees and other plants. The ‘wood wide web’ is a phrase that was coined to describe vast networks of fungi growing underground, which we normally only notice when they fruit and produce mushrooms or fungi which pop up above ground.
This particular type of fungi grows mycelia, thread-like structures which are best imagined as a sort of expansive root. These mycelia connect both with the roots of nearby trees and also with the soil in which they grow. In exchange for carbon from the trees, the fungi provide the trees with micro-nutrients from the soil. These are nutrients which the fungi can access by breaking them down with enzymes, but that the trees may not be able to access through their roots.
Rhizocore Technologies develop pellets with a tailored mix of fungi, which will help newly planted saplings tap into a natural network of fungi, with the expectation the this will enhance the growth of the trees and the carbon sequestration in the soil. As part of our innovative practices at The Nature Trust, we are carrying out a project with Rhizocore using these fungi pellets to explore how to improve tree growth and health in some of the new native woodlands that we are planting.
Rhizocore founder and CEO Toby Parkes and Laboratory Manager Roisin Moore gathered fungi samples at a site in Mayo in October 2022 and cultured them, first in a solution and then in a growing medium. The inoculated growing medium was then made into pellets, with one pellet added to the ground with each sapling in a test area planted with a mix of native Irish tree species in March 2023.
The expectation is that trees that receive the pellets will grow faster and stronger than trees that do not receive pellets. We look forward to tracking the results of the project over the coming years and learning more about these complex relationships between trees and mycorrhizal fungi. In the mean time, if you would like to dive deeper into the world of mycorrhizal fungi, you can read our blog on the CIEEM website here