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Symbiotic root fungus promotes growth in plants

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Researchers at the University of Tübingen have discovered a microscopic fungus which promotes growth in certain plants. "This fungus, native to Europe, is an organic fertilizer with the potential to increase yields of crops such as wheat and maize," says Sigisfredo Garnica of the Institute of Evolution and Ecology.

Dr. Garnica and Dr. Kai Riess discovered the Serendipita herbamans fungus in the roots of various plant species. Working with their colleagues at the Institute, Professor Franz Oberwinkler and Dr. Robert Bauer, they used molecular methods to establish that the tiny fungus was present in root cells. Vast numbers of fungi live in symbiosis with plants. Like animals, fungi cannot photosynthesize – they get all the products of photosynthesis from plants in the form of carbohydrates. In return, they are specialized in breaking down organic materials in the soil, releasing nutrients for their hosts to use. Only a few such symbiotic fungi are known to be cultivatable in the laboratory.

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