Turn Deserts into Oases with Mycorrhizal Fungi in Under 10 Years

Alok Adholeya at his research station nestled within a reclaimed oasis in India.
Alok Adholeya at his research station nestled within a reclaimed oasis in India.

Here’s the article I mentioned yesterday. The article is about mycorrhizal fungi (commonly called myco). It explains how a research center near Delhi, India turned a salty, rocky soil wasteland into an oasis in under 10 years using plants inoculated with myco. Now they are selling vast quantities of mass produced myco around the world. Today it’s easy to find myco products including myco inoculated compost in most garden stores. Myco can turn deserts, abandoned mining sites and other inhospitable areas into oases as explained in the follow article.

“Researchers digging below the Indian surface are discovering that myco-enriched soil may hold the clues necessary to preserve the Earth’s fragile ecosystems well into the future.

Reaching the lush science campus involved heading south from Delhi, just over the state border, along the trash-strewn Faridabad Road. The alkaline fields of dust along the side of the highway are poisonous to most plants, hospitable only for patches of the most rugged and ragged of species.

The auto rickshaw was still sputtering as I stepped out. I handed the driver some rupees and walked up the driveway to the guarded gates of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). As I stepped through TERI’s fence line, I took in the spectacle of an oasis. Ahead was a wide path that disappeared into jungle.

Out of the shadows of the jungle appeared an electric buggy. Internal combustion engines are banned on the campus. The buggy ferried me quietly down the path and through the half mile of acacia trees, gardens, bamboo and rows of palm trees to Alok Adholeya’s laboratory on the other side.

If green-thumbed people ever got together to vote on who had the greenest thumb, this guy might win. The microbiologist is a maestro of mycorrhizae – the name given to an ancient subterranean union between fungi and plants.

“What you see here is all reclaimed land,” Adholeya said proudly, welcoming me to his research station of more than a quarter of a century.
“This was barren land,” Adholeya said. “This was wasteland. The government didn’t know what to do with it.”

Best Adholeya could tell, this land had been bad ever since salty seas pulled back from this part of the subcontinent. “That’s the only explanation,” he said, for all the salt that was in the soil.

The naturally barren land resembled wastelands that pock parts of India and the rest of world; many of them the broken-down consequences of pollution and poor land management. The barren canvas offered the young scientist acres of seemingly useless soil to work with.

There was no organic matter to speak of and any topsoil that started to accumulate during the winter would run off with the summer monsoon. Rivulets and gullies formed during heavy rain and set hard when the landscape dried.

By ’96, the groundwater was fresh and the land looked much as it does today, vegetated from scratch in less than a decade by embracing the natural union between fungus and plants.”

More at the source — Ascender Magazine: The Macro of Myco

4 thoughts on “Turn Deserts into Oases with Mycorrhizal Fungi in Under 10 Years”

  1. This is a very interesting article, but the typo in the title is rather glaring. Turning desert into a green paradise is a lovely thing, but dessert, not so much.

  2. Look at desertification maps and you’ll understand why projects like this are so important and encouraging. What I don’t know is if the myco inoculated compost in sealed plastic bags is alive. Most sources say the myco and other living organisms die in plastic bags. That’s why we’re making our own compost. You can inoculate your compost with myco for free by adding a handful of soil from the base of an old tree.


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