Tree-fungus could reduce fertiliser use in tomatoes

A fungus associated with causing wood to rot could boost the efficiency of fertiliser use in tomato crops according to a group of Chinese scientists.

In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the team of researchers led by Jianguo Huang at China’s Southwest University, a specific strain of Ceriporia lacerate proved to be harmless to tomatoes and reduced the need for applications of chemical fertiliser.

When growing on trees, and when present in the soil, the fungus produces enzymes such as proteases and phosphatases to obtain nutrients from its immediate environment. These enzymes free up nutrients, including those delivered in fertiliser, which would otherwise remain locked-up and unavailable to the plant.

In field tests, it was found that when the HG2011 strain of Ceriporia lacerata was added to both fertilised and unfertilised soil, it improved nutrient uptake and the yield of tomato plants grown in that soil. According to the team the fungus also enhanced the nutritional value and flavour of the fruit by increasing its sugar-to-acid ratio along with its soluble sugar and vitamin C content.

The researchers now hope that compost incorporating the fungus could be used as an inexpensive supplement to reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers.

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