Testing mycorrhizal fungus inoculant in containers

Bob1016(9b)February 8, 2012

So I have decided to test a mycorrhizal fungus inoculant on lettuce this season. I will be using one of the leaders (most recommended) in these products: plant success great white. I will use black seeded Simpson lettuce as the test plant. I will use a mix of perlite and turface in a 1:1 ratio for the medium (both are sterile so there will be no contamination) in small plastic cups (drainage holes will be provided), 1 teaspoon of greensand will be added to each cup, as well as 1/4 tsp of osmocote for the CRF. The plants will be seeded in the mix to avoid contamination, and applications of the product will start at the first true leaf stage, and will continue at the recommended rate on the label.

I will not grow these plants to seed. If there is a signicant difference in size and quality I will stop the experiment to weigh root mass and top mass. If thee is no significant difference in the plants, I will wait until the recommended maturation time has passed (45 days), then weigh in the plants.

I have not decided on water and fertilizer schemes yet, there are two options: water and fertilize (fertigate) as need, or fertigate consistently. I could do the same amount each time, or change based on individual plants needs (the product claims to expedite nutrient uptake, so of I fertigate both the same the controll might be fine but the subject might get burn, or the subject will be fine and the controll will be slightly deficient). I leave this aspect up to you guys: would you rather me fertigate consistently, or as needed?

I will try to place them so that they get the same amount of light, but it may differ by a few minutes each day (I live in an apartment on the third floor, so I cannot guarantee equall lighting for both, but the difference is very small, and I will rotate them so they get the same total amount).

Any ideas, changes, or bets on the outcome are welcome.


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Bob, I'll join you! :-)

I'll be using the 5:1:1 mix. This will be for annual flowers (not sure which ones exactly).

I think I'm going to start some of the seeds by wintersowing in the ProMix, 1/2 inoculated with the AMF and 1/2 without. When I transfer them to the 5:1:1 mix, I'll incorporate some more AMF with the experimental plants.

Where exactly are you getting your MF from?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 8:54PM
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A local hydroponics store carries all of my specialty products (humic acids, fulvic acids, seaweed extract, greensand, and I guess MFs). Each of them have a different suggested application rates, your should try a different brand, or line, so we can see if both work, or both fail. We won't be able to see what works better, but maybe next season I could cook something up.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 10:00PM
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Great, Bob. Why not get some of Soil Secrets Endomaxima and apply to your lettuce seed side by side with great white and another container with none applied. Have you been to the Soil Secrets website and looked at their product line? Inoculation is a snap - mix seed with a tiny amount of Endomaxima in a small bowl then tea strain the mixture into another small bowl to recover the unused Endomaxima for reuse. The seed has a negative static charge and the Endomaxima has a positive charge so they stick together. If you give me your name and address, I will give you a small amount to try in your trials. Email me at freevic76@yahoo.com. ssmdgardner, I'll do the same for you. That's the best that I can do. I predict that you WILL see the difference, both in top growth and the root system.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 2:29AM
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Thanks, popeye! I'm looking forward to the trials!

(btw Popeye, could you go back to the soils forum to my post? I had some follow up questions for you after your post. Thanks!)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 4:47AM
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I just want to do a test on GW this season. I will have a control plant of course, but two plants (no matter how small) is about as much space as I can spare. Next season I could try it, or ssmdgardener could try it this season, and one of us can run a comparison next season.
Still waiting to see what you guys want as far as the fertigation method, and some bets on what's going to happen would be interesting.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 10:25AM
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I would like to see Home and Garden Root Excelurator added to the test. It's the best I've seen so far, but uses bacteria but not mycorrhizae.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 2:40PM
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ssmgardener, maybe you could try popeye's suggested brand or capoman's, or both, or we could get someone else to one run of them, then someone will try a side by side with all of them.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 3:50PM
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Capoman, I think I'll hold off on the excelurator this year, and try a couple of different kinds of MF first.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 6:44PM
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Guess what, ya'll - I gonna be testing a few of the mycorrhizal alternatives to Soil Secrets Endomaxima and I have the room to do it though it can be done in peat cups in one square foot of space...Anyone been to the Soil Secrets website yet? I haven't heard any feedback yet.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 5:30AM
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Hey ssmdgardener, which of my posts are you referring to? I searched the humus thread and soil testing - why do it? and I couldn't find you. Please get back, thanks.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 5:56AM
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Popeye, that's the expert that you referred to in your other posts, right? The website isn't very user-friendly. The videos don't have any descriptions besides the title (I'm more of a reader than a watcher), and the articles are in pdf format (ugh). Also, the videos are privately hosted instead of linking to a public, indexed host like youtube or vimeo. Just an fyi to the owner of the site: The current format makes it hard for google to figure out what your website is all about and will not be indexed very high when someone is looking up key words.

Anyway, I don't see MF in their "products" page...?

Popeye, my thread was about the "perfect" soil structure. I had a couple of posts of follow up questions, and others have commented as well. I appreciate your input on this!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 7:31AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I would be interested in your finding, but I never go to containers. I am not big on containers, because so far, nothing grows well for me in them. I wish I could figure out how to subscribe to the thread, or maybe start a new one on soil after your findings, so we can discuss it. But, this years I am doing a rose in a container and so far it is going great. I hope I don't jinx it by saying that. I am keeping it inside in the wet weather to see if can prevent fungal from growing on the leaves.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Just avoid peat in containers, and everything should be okay. My rose is doing great even in Florida heat, it's Belinda's dream on a fortunia rootstock. Just reported into a mix of perlite, crushed lava rock, turface, and high C compost, topped with lava rock for aesthetics.
I've been doing a lot of research on mycorrhizae and glomalin lately (curiosity is my biggest vice), and if you want to improve mycorrhizae levels in your garden soil I woul recommend letting the ground grow a native grass for a few months then returning to cops, this will allow the fungi to return to its normal levels; this with no-till methods will increase the amount of mycorrhizal fungi and increase the glomalin levels in the soil.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sarah wrights research

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 5:21PM
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ssmd, soilsecrets.com and Michael Melendrez is the expert I am referring to. He is intensively working on his site to make it more user friendly and to get up the line on the search engines. His videos are on youtube. Just search mycorrhizae and humus and you should find them. How 'bout my site? Have you visited and if so, any problems? I would appreciate any feedback. thanks. I am on my way to your thread and I notice there are already over 50 responses. See ya.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 11:46PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Are you aware of the extensive lab testing done on trichoderma by Cornell University? It's worth reading some of their findings. One of the only products on the market that contains the T-22 strain of trichoderma that they found to be effective is Rootshield. I suggest you include that one in an experiment.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell trichoderma studies

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 11:49AM
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popeye, I just checkout soilsecrets.com. Normally, companies that sell humus products are very careful in their wording (they try not to mention the fact that they really don't know what humus is, or all of it's effects; they also don't like to mention that a tiny amount will treat many square feet of soil), this one actually knows what they're talking about, and don't shy away from the facts that make there product sell less than others. It is informative, and I can't find a single mistake (or intentional lack of information) with any of they're research, claims, or anything else. I just read the articles and watched the vids, didn't look at they're products yet. Thanks for the link.
Ohiofem, thanks for the link, haven't found much on trichoderma yet, lots on mycorrhizae though. This was a good read as well; know I understand why they're in most myccorrhizal inoculants.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 12:03PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Bob, I'll be interested in your findings.

If the results are good enough to justify the cost, then I might consider a trial in the future.

I find mycorrhizae in my bark-mixes at the end of the year, so I might already be enjoying
the benefits as is.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 12:54PM
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greenman28, I am pretty sure that most of us experience mycorrhizae in containers, they might take a while to get established, but they live on about 90% of all plants so they get in there somehow, I am sure. I want to see if adding one of these inoculants makes them more bountiful, or if there is any difference compared to regular plant growth. I am using sterile a medium (perlite and turface), but I have a funny feeling that the fungi will turn up in both the control and subject.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 1:37PM
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The containers I will use are a popular powdered drink container, drainage holes are provided and allow for adequate drainage.

The medium is about a 50-50 of perlite and tuface which have been screened so that no particles are smaller than 1/16".

Sorry about all of the pictures, but I would like this experiment to be as accurate as possible, and for there to be plenty of proof of its actual existence.

I will sow the seeds if Black Seeded Thompson lettuce directly into the medium. Once sprouts have appeared I will remove all but one in each container, ideally the same size and age.
At the first true leaf stage one will be inoculated with Plant Success Great White at the recommended dosage.

These products are supposed to be used with chlorine/chloramine free water, but we don't all have RO water, and I am sure we will not be willing to buy distilled water whenever we need to water our plants. To this extent, I will only use distilled water to inoculate the fungi, for follow up waterings I will use filtered water (I have an aquasana water filter that I use for all my plants, food, drinks, etc.). It DOES NOT remove all chlorine/chloramines, but it does remove SOME, so there will be much less ppm of these chemicals. This is done because if the product costs $40, and we have to spend $5 a week on water, there is really no point unless there is a drastic difference and you are selling your plant.
Ideas, comments, and bets are all welcome.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 2:34PM
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Bob, I'm a couple zones lower and still recovering, so it'll probably be a few more weeks before I get started.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 5:25PM
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No rush. What product(s) are you thinking about testing?
Forgot to mention that there is 1/4 tsp of osmocote 19-6-12 slow release in the mix.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 6:38PM
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Great White contains fungus and bacteria, it's a great product. Be careful using tap water with chlorine or the osmocote. Both of those things may kill those organisms or at the least make it hard for them to thrive.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 4:12PM
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HydroPete, if I were doing hydro then I would have an RO system, and I would hope that anyone who is serious about hydro would also have one. As for the average gardener, specifically container gardeners, we normally don't have RO systems, unless we're growing large sale, so I wanted to do the experiment so that the average gardner could benefit from its results: using filtered water, common container ingredients, average plants (nothing rare or unique, just lettuce), and an average fertilizer regime.
I was unaware of any ill effects of osmocote, could you please elaborate?
Have you done your own side-by-side? I would love to hear your results, it's been very hard to find research on inoculants that are available through retail on container plants, found some on hydro with marijuana, but I'm not interested in getting arrested so that's on my don't grow list : )

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 6:37PM
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I decided to start inoculation at the cotyledon phase, before the first leaves develop.
Here are the two plants

The bottom one is labeled like this

(Inoculated w/ GW)
The product and a gallon of distilled water

The mixed solution at recommended strength: 1/2tsp per gallon

The labeled subject inoculated

We will see what happens, any guesses?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:53AM
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Hello fellow scientists! :-)

I'm having a heckuva time trying to buy a small amount of Endomaxima on line. Who sells this stuff??? Soilsecrets.com is not a retail site. I really want to try a brand that's readily available on line, so that others can try to replicate my results.

Bob, are you using Plant Success?

I'm going to try Omri.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 6:47PM
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I am using Plant Success Great White. I was considering using regular plant success granular, but GW has a superior reputation, so I thought I would start with that.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 8:18PM
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You grow organic? Sorry if I missed it. Is there a reason for mycorrhizal fungus inoculants using synthetic fertilizer? As far as I know it would not be good. But that is As far as I know. Also, are you sure a medium like your using can support fungal colonies?

Again, these are all questions, I have learned a lot from Bob1016 so far.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 9:15PM
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MasterGardener, I've been reading published research articles, and they say what's really important for MF is to keep the phosphorous level low. The published studies say it doesn't matter if you use synthetic or organic fertilizers.

Research also indicates that MF can be supported in containers and in non-optimal growing environments.

I'm a believer in independent, unbiased university research!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 12:35AM
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I saw a study in which several containers (2/3 inorganic medium) were inoculated with MF, some had osmocote, others had organic ferts, the ones with osmocote did better. I can't remember what university it was, but I second your beliefs ssmdgardener.
Everything that I have seen suggests a P concentration of less than 70ppm, with 1/4tsp fert to a gallon of water with my fert mix, the P is at 30ppm; allowing for a slight build up between flushing (it will happen no matter what you try) of 40ppm extra. 70ppm doesn't kill the fungi, but Cmake it go dormant, strange huh?
TheMasterGardener1, anything that can affordable increase the health of our plants, I consider worth it. If this product makes me cut fertilization needs, then I save money, if it makes my plants more healthy, vigorous, or just happy, I think it is worth a shot. Not to mention, these things have a lot of hype so I figures someone better see if they're worth it.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 8:05AM
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I use mycorrhizae with many of my container plants but I found it does best with my pepper plants of all varieties.

Most noticeable are the giant leaves on the bottom third of the plant. They get smaller towards the top. The root system is massive.

Organic potting mix basically of peat, manure and perlite. One reason I use myco is to stimulate quick root growth so excess water gets sucked up and only when potting up.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 12:01PM
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Wow so there is a reason for them in in-organic fertilizer programs.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 1:26PM
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Another question for Bob.

What do you think about Amino Acids and plants, do they use them? Are they good to add?

Not to get off subject.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 1:31PM
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Greengrass, some of the research I've read on MF and peppers has been fascinating. They do seem to respond very well to MF. I'm trying a few different varieties of peppers this year and looking forward to the results!

Also, greengrass, where do you get your MF from?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 3:58PM
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This root ball came out of a 10 or 12 inch pot. Habenaro plant yielded loads of peppers in ma.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 4:58PM
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greengrass1, that is a seriously impressive root ball!
I while ago I did an experiment with "liquid karma" to see if it affected plant growth. I still use it to this day, needless to say it did better than the control, and it contains humic and fulvic acids, amino acids, carbs, seaweed extract and a few other goodies including some phytohormones. It works quite well from what I have seen, especially effective at reducing transplant shock and helps with bad weather (heat, cold, drought). You should try experimenting with it yourself to see if it's worth it.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 7:00PM
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I do I use Botincare. I mentioned it before on here and everyone that responded said they do not work.

I just wanted to confirm with someone that actually has plant knowledge.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 8:02PM
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greengrass1, I'm hoping you see this. So which brand of MF did you use and where did you purchase it?

MG1, did you use Zho?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 6:54AM
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Supplements like humic acids, silicates, amino acids, phytohormones, and the like are primarily used in hydroponics, where such chemicals are not found unless placed there. In containers, if we use an organic medium with some natural soil, then these chemicals are already present, if using no soil, and little organic medium, then these chemicals are not present, and while not necessary for growth, they seem to benefit it.
I strongly suggest doing your own experiment and judging if the price is worth it. I use some of these because I grow edibles (veggies, flowers, and such), and the larger yeild is worth it, but I would not waste the money on orientals unless selling them.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 12:24PM
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MG1, did you use Zho?
No I have used "Myco Madness" by hombolt nutrients i think it was called only because it was really cheap. I thought I was wasting my money because my fertilizer program was for the most part full synthetic. But from what Bob says inoculants help even in in-organic fertilizer feeding.

I am understanding there is better fertilizer out there but I like Botanicare. Like Bob said it has minerals in it that would be in the soil.

If we use a low P fertilizer we can still use synthetic and not kill the fungus?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:15PM
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MG1, that's what the research says, that as long as the P is kept low, synthetics do not kill the fungus.

I need to decide on a brand soon...

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 6:28AM
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ssmdgardener, maybe you should try Plant Succes Granular, that way we can test two products that the company offers and see if the $20 difference means that one doesn't work. I have seen MycoMadness mentioned a few times, but no tests, it might be a good choice; or Plant Success Orca, Fungi Perfect: MycoGrow, or ZHO.
If you have any hydroponic or specialty (organic) gardening stores around you, they shoul have at least a few of these.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:33AM
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I just like to use Hydrogen Peroxide to keep roots healthy, I was under the impression H2o2 kills the life in the soil? Does it?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 12:44PM
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H2O2 distroys cells, and as such, it will kill all microbes which is why it is very popular to flush hydro systems with it. It will kill root cells, but, it will not kill the roots themselves. I would not suggest using it on potted plants, nor ebb and flood hydro systems, but it will get the job done. Furthermore, if these inoculants work, they will establish healthy microbes and fungi, which naturally kill bad microbes, so no need to use both if these inoculants work.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 3:52PM
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Nice thread discussion.
Keep us updated on any test results.

Last year I compared planting in a "forest mix". Mulch/soil that I scrapped off the ground from around a pine tree, to planting in an organic+leaf mix & to a planting in a gritty mix.

posted the results here:

The forest mix plant had no transplant shock at all, it was quite remarkable. I believe that the high dosage of mycorrhizal in the forest mix was probably the reason. There was lots of visible white mycorrhizal in the mix when I "prepared" it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Forest mix results

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 6:07PM
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emgardener, thank you for the link.

The published research articles regarding MF and peppers are absolutely fascinating. I really should have bookmarked them... I cleared my history in anticipation of the google privacy changes, and now I can't find anything. :/

If I'm remembering correctly, the peppers inoculated with MF were harvested _weeks_ earlier than the control plants.

I imagine the forest mix was teeming with MF. I can't wait to find out what would happen with peppers in gritty with inoculated with MF.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 10:04PM
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smgardner, Sorry I missed your post.I get myko on this sit.


Get the one for plants only ie not the myko for woody shrub type.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 4:43PM
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Sorry about the lack of updates, I have been out of town and have not seen the test plants. Don't worry they were watered and fertilized as I laid out in the previous posts.
I can't get picture up right now, but the control has 2 true leaves as well as the cotyledons, while the inoculated subject has 1 true leaf and the cotyledons.
Not the reaction I would expect, but there is still plenty of time to see a change.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 1:49PM
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I am so confused. I have some hydro-organic fertilizer from Botanicare. It says it is soluble 100%. It can be used in hydrogardens. Does this say it does NOT need inoculants.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Bob, I will be making a trip out to the local hydroponics store tomorrow. They apparently have 4-5 brands of MF. They don't have the brands you listed above, so I'm still not sure exactly which brand I'll be purchaing...

Thanks for that tip to check out hydropinics! I never would have thought to look them up. The local nurseries (even the big ones) around here don't carry MF, and I didn't feel like paying for shipping charges from an online store.

Now I won't have an excuse to delay my peppers any further. :-)

Oh, and I remember reading that the inoculated plants were somewhat slow to get started. I think it's because they're spending all their energy in root development.

(Bob, as an aside, I just ran out of Osmocote. Which slow release fertilizers do you use in your containers?)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 5:14PM
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I have many questions. I apologize that this is so long.

I tried reading the information given with the links. Unfortunately, I can't make heads or tails of it.

The one I do seem to notice is that certain materials in a soil less mix will inhibit the growth of the mycorrhizal fungus.

Specifically I heard that (and this is the bit of information I did understand with reading those PDF files) that spaghnum peat can inhibit the grow of it?

It says to counter act this replace part of your soil less mix with real dirt. However I do have concerns about this.

Real dirt doesn't work well in containers; it compacts and is too heavy.

It recommends replacing part of the soil less mix with sand or dirt. What exactly is meant by dirt? Dirt from the ground? The dirt that is around here is very nutrient poor and not fertile; I've tried growing stuff in it and to no avail.

If not replacing part of the stuff in the soil less mix with dirt from the ground then, what type of dirt?

Also based on what I've read there are myriad of mycorrhizal fungus varieties. I'd like one that would do well with vegetables and herbs.

Unfortunately aside from them improving the quality of the soil, I don't really know anything about them. Can somebody make recommendations?

Also it says that if the growth of the colony of mycorrhizal fungus is inhibited, it will cause good growth with the plants, but no growth in the colony of the fungus. What is the difference and what does this mean?

The last thing is mycorrhizal fungus have numerous benefits for plants; they make the soil more fertile, they adapt better with drought, more disease resistant, more yields, etc.

However if the mycorrhizal fungus doesn't work out (that is it doesn't produce in the soil in decent numbers) does it have any adverse affect on the plants/soil?

Where do you find mycorrhizal fungus powder online?
I've found sites that carry it, but no way to order it online. None of the local stores here carry it.

Also some of the sites say it's microbe powder, but it's not the mycorrhizal fungus, the site just claims it is, even though it's really not.

Is there a difference between the microbe powder and the mycorrhizal fungus powder inoculant, or are they merely different ways of referring to the same thing?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 2:46AM
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kawaiineko, I had a hard time deciding on a brand, but Bob let me know that hydroponics stores would carry them. I googled hydroponics and found at least 4-5 in my area. I went to one and decided to buy Zho, which contains MF as well as trichodermal fungus.

We're just starting our experiment, so there's no way to tell right now which brands will out-perform others. We can share our results here to see if there's a significant difference between the brands.

DWD2 linked to a scholarly article that discusses the effectiveness of various brands, but the linked blurb doesn't tell you the actual commercial names of MF that performed better than others.

Whenever I hear something that is counter to what I've read in the past (like how MF is inhibited in peat-based mixes), I do a scholarly search. Also, because I rarely use peat in my containers anymore, it's not much of an issue. I was easily able to find an article that discussed how seedlings growing in peat-vermiculite mixes in a greenhouse developed MF.

I would never put garden soil in my containers; whatever additional benefit comes with it is not worth losing my plants due to compaction.

What I've learned from doing the little amount of reading is that there isn't a direct, 1:1 positive correlation between the amount of MF development and how well the vegetable performs. There are MANY variables, including the type of vegetation; type of MF; amount of inoculant; type of soil; amount of fertilization; and method of fertilization. Also, there isn't necessarily a 1:1 positive correlation between the amount of MF development and whatever outcome it is that you're looking for (better fruit, more fruit, earlier fruit, more foliage, better drought tolerance, etc.).

IOW, I'm just doing this for fun. If it works, I'll continue to do mini experiments every year using a different vegetable and post the results here to share with like-minded people.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 9:46AM
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Bob what the h...l happens to testing folks after 2-3 months after active postings?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 11:02PM
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Bob, I know this is an old post but what did you think of the Great White myko ?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 2:43PM
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Wow. An appalogy won't do this justice! Newborn, mead and beer making, winemaking, learning Ancient Greek, a KID(!) all get in the way of things, like keeping up with garden web. I just searched my computer for the pictures I took, but nothing. I guess they didn't make the jump to the new computer. I swear I took quite a few, but their gone so no point in wollowing in sorrow.
I do remember that their was nothing overtly different between the two (in growth rate or yeild) only a slight increase in size of the treated one (very slight), and as I blanked on the test I didn't weigh them like I should have (damn my memory).
I do use it still (don't know why, probably just because), but no side by sides.
I really wish I could muster up an appalogy, but nothing would fit; I'll just say sorry. :(

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 3:20PM
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