This post highlights the work of a researcher funded through the BIOAg program, a competitive grants program administered by CSANR, created to stimulate research, extension and education investments by WSU scientists and to advance the development, understanding, and use of biologically-intensive, organic and sustainable agriculture in Washington State.
When it comes to organisms living in the soil, we mostly hear about the “bad guys”—soilborne pests. However, there are many soil organisms that are beneficial to crops. Among these beneficial organisms, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are particularly interesting as they form symbiotic associations with plant roots, helping the plant access phosphorus and other nutrients in the soil. According to Tanya Cheeke, Assistant Professor of Biology at Washington State University Tri-Cities, over 85% of all plant species, including crop plants, have relationships with AM fungi. Cheeke received funding through the BIOAg program to establish a field trial to investigate whether mycorrhizal inoculants could be used to enhance grapevine growth and nutrient uptake in wine grapes. More specifically, Cheeke and her research team are testing Merlot grapes, which responded positively in previous greenhouse experiments, to inoculation with AM fungi under different phosphorous conditions. Field trials were established during the summer of 2020, so results are still pending. However, Cheeke’s work evaluating the conditions under which which mycorrhizal fungi are most beneficial to grapevine growth could have impacts for Washington’s wine grape industry. For more information on Cheeke’s research, check out the following stories featuring her team’s work or visit her website.
The Daily Evergreen: WSU Tri-Cities researchers use fungi to replace chemical fertilizers
WSU Insider: Wine and fungi: The perfect pairing
Pacific Northwest Ag Network, Wave Minute: Relationship Between Wine Health And Soil Health (Radio story)