Analyzing the effect of mycorrhizal fungi on plant communication of nutrients

(1) Mount Olive High School
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The goal of our experiment was to determine if phosphate transfer occurred between plants, using mycorrhizal fungi. We hypothesized that a “communication” network existed between plants when the mycorrhizal fungi were present and that there would be no transfer of nutrients if the mycorrhizal fungi were not present. This study extended the analysis of Suzanne Simard who studied Paper Birch, Douglas Fir, and Western Red Cedar in Canada. She was able to confirm that there is a massive underground communication where different plants cooperate with resources using mycorrhizal fungi. The purpose of our experiment was to see if plants with nutrients would transfer their excess levels of phosphate to the plant that had a limited amount of nutrients. Overall, no definitive conclusion could be drawn from the treatments conducted. The measurements greatly deviated from the hypothesized results and demonstrated a more complicated relationship than originally thought. Further study will need to be conducted to determine if there are further conditions that must be met, such as a minimum amount of phosphate concentration or a minimum differential between the resources (in terms of this study, phosphate concentration) of the two plants, for this transfer to occur. The results of this study, if replicated and shown to be conclusive at long distances, could be used to aid forest management.

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