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Natural, man-made mix promises biggest landscape plant growth

At warehouse-sized stores this season, consumers scan pallet-laden shelves for just the right concoction. Various formulas promise new vigor, add iron or correct a myriad of deficiencies. Fast-acting or slow-release, organic or not, everything promises to get bigger and last longer.

And that's just the plant aisle.

Fertilizers for gardening are a major growth industry, so to speak, with U.S. consumers and nursery owners spending millions every year for mixtures aimed at improving the health of their greenery.

But a recent study points to an inexpensive natural additive that makes better use of some fertilizers, saving not only money but improving the environment, according to Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers.

"When a plant suffers from stress, it suffers just like when we are stressed," said Dr. Fred Davies, Experiment Station horticulturist. "This study showed a way to get better plant growth while allowing for a more judicial use of pesticides and water."

Davies, Experiment Station horticulturist Dr. Michael Arnold and then graduate student Lucila Amaya Carpio studied mycorrhiza (my-co-RIZE-ay), a microscopic fungus in the soil, incorporated with either synthetic or natural fertilizers and applied to bush morning glory. Their finding that mycorrhiza mixed with synthetic fertilizers yielded better plant growth and nutrition contradicts previous notions that the fungi work better with just organic, slow-release fertilizers, Davies said.

A report on their research will appear in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Sciences later this year. Mycorrhizal fungi evolved with plants over thousands of years and formed a beneficial relationship. Now available under several product names, these fungi are used to ease plants through stressful times in their lives.

"In other words, they make it easier for the roots of plants to access water and nutrients, which is important in producing pla
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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
17-Jun-2004


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