Authored by: Raffaella Balestrini , Valeria Bianciotto , Paola Bonfante

Handbook of Soil Sciences Properties and Processes

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  November  2011

Print ISBN: 9781439803059
eBook ISBN: 9781439803066
Adobe ISBN:


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Mycorrhizal fungi are specialized root symbionts that engage in intimate association with a great diversity of plants (Smith and Read, 2008; Bonfante and Genre, 2010). The term mycorrhiza implies an association of fungi with roots (from the Greek “mycos,” meaning fungus and “rhiza,” meaning root), relationships, called mycorrhizal associations. These are also found between fungi and the underground gametophytes of many bryophytes and pteridophytes, as well as the sporophytes of most pteridophytes and the roots of seed plants (Bonfante and Genre, 2008; Smith and Read, 2008). The most understood function of such symbioses concerns the improvement of plant mineral nutrient acquisition, in exchange for carbon compounds, which results in positive host growth responses. Mycorrhizal fungi can also perform many other significant roles, including protection of the plant from biotic and abiotic stress, for instance, by altering host environmental tolerances to water deficit or pollutants or reducing susceptibility to soilborne pathogens (Aroca et al., 2007; Smith and Read, 2008).

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