Plants and fungi, living together, make plants more tolerant

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In Sweden, researchers at the University of Gothenburg found that by developing a symbiotic relationship with fungi, plants not only become more tolerant to diseases and certain environmental factors like drought, but can also help contribute to more sustainable agricultural practices.

Most crops can form symbiosis with fungi to gain key nutrients, while the fungi gain carbohydrates from the plant’s photosynthesis. This type of symbiosis is key to sustainable agriculture since it helps crops utilize better the phosphate in fertilizers.

In the research to better utilize this symbiosis, one mechanism seems to be that the fungi increase the plant’s levels of several hormones in both its roots and shoots. One of the hormones makes the plant more drought tolerant, since it reduces the evaporation of water through the stomata of the leaves. The other hormone helps increase the production of secondary substances that protect the plant against stress and diseases.