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07 September 2011, Volume 3 Issue 3 Previous Issue    Next Issue
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Research Articles
Linking water and nutrients through the vadose zone: a fungal interface between the soil and plant systems
Michael F Allen
Journal of Arid Land. 2011, 3 (3): 155-163.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2011.00155
Abstract ( 3002 )     PDF (270KB) ( 3527 )  
Plant water availability, use, and management have largely focused on physical processes of infiltration and the role of roots in uptake and transpiration. However, roots and mycorrhizal fungi redistribute water in complex patterns. Here I describe some of our observations and experiments showing that mycorrhizal fungi play key roles in moving water for both transpiration and to facilitate nutrient acquisition under dry conditions. Mycorrhizal fungal hyphae grow from both surface and deep roots even into bedrock to help extract water under dry conditions. In both deep and surface roots, mycorrhizal fungi acquire water from pores too small for roots and root hairs to access, and at distances from roots and root hairs. Mycorrhizal fungi are also able to utilize hydraulic-lifted water from plants to obtain nutrients in extremely dry surface soils. The importance of these root symbionts in water and nutrient dynamics, and as integrators of surface and deeper water dynamics need further investigation.