Ecothrive Biosys and the secret life of Mycorrhizal Fungi

Gareth from Ecothrive talks to us about how the Mycorrhizal Fungi in Biosys work in your grow medium

Most organic growers will have heard of mycorrhizal fungi. They work unseen in the root zone, attaching themselves to the roots in a sort of partnership relationship where the fungi pass water and nutrients to the roots of plants while the plant rewards its fungal friends with some sugar in return. The mycorrhizal fungi can grow to create an enormous network which vastly increases the effective root mass of the plant. 

As a result, pathogenic fungi which can cause root-rot are warded off.  Without being attacked root-growth speed increases, and the fungi break down matter into nutrients for the plant, all while providing an increased means of accessing water and thereby improving drought resistance.

How to get the most from Biosys

It has been a while since Gareth Hopcroft, the man behind Ecothrive, introduced the fantastic product "Charge" to the growing community. Here at One Stop Grow Shop, we only get behind products that actually make a difference. Ecothrive Charge is one of those products. We and an increasing army of growers love it!

Since the introduction of Charge, Gareth has been tinkering away in the background with Ecothrive Biosys - his exciting new mycorrhizal fungi based product.

Biological Gardening - Bio-diversity is the way!

Now, mycorrhizal inoculants are not so new. In fact, they've been around for many years. Unfortunately, there is a lot of hazy advice out there on how to get the best out of them. However, we've had a very pleasant correspondence with Gareth all about his new product Biosys, and how it fits with other inoculants out there in the market.

For example, Biosys contains not just one but eight different strains of Mycorrhizal fungi! But do you really need 8 species? If the most dominant strain usually wins out, why not provide just one species? We asked Gareth these questions, and here is what he said:

"The problem with singling out one mycorrhizal strain for symbiosis is that it can be risky, as you have all your eggs in one basket. You see, plants are not always willing to commit to a forced symbiosis. Neither will they enter into symbiosis unless the rhizosphere conditions are right, or as they are required by the plant. Mycorrhizae can shut down if conditions change outside of their optimum, and different species have different tolerances. High N or P applications are common issues.

Diversity - Giving your plants a choice!

In addition, longer term annual and perennial plants can switch symbionts during the course of the season. It is well known that other myco species are involved during vegetative growth than during generative growth. During flowering they may adopt a multi-species colonisation. So, inoculating with multiple myco species removes these risks and covers all your bases."

This is very handy information! It seems that inoculating with several strains can give the plant a choice depending on conditions. It also gives the plant a backup plan if conditions aren't quite right for one of the strains of mycorrhizal fungi, but good for one of the others. He summed it all up very tidily for us:

"Biosys is all about species diversity, enabling plants to choose what, when and where they require."

This is very true. Not unlike other mycorrhizal products on the market, Biosys contains 2 strains of Trichoderma too.

The Importance of MHBs (Mycorrhizal Helper Bacteria)

Additionally, Biosys also contains several strains of beneficial bacteria. There are very good reasons for this, Gareth goes on to explain:

"More important to the functionality of Biosys (and other microbial products like Great White) is that the myco's require "mycorrhizae helper bacteria", termed MHB (give it a google, lots of interesting info). In a nutshell, these bacteria have specialised enzymes to solubilise nutrients (which myco mycelia cannot achieve on their own) and supply these to the myco's. It is safe to say that applying a single species mycorrhizal inoculant is ineffective, particularly in poor soils or hydroponic substrates, without mycorrhizae helper bacteria. The inclusion of these bacterial helpers in Biosys aids with tolerance to mineral fertilizers and other plant and substrate conditions that can shut down or prevents symbiosis. Biosys contains important helpers like N-fixers as well as phosphorus solubilisers. (note: some manufacturers offer their bacterial additives as a separate product)"

It seems beneficials work the best when there is a whole community of different species, just like there is in healthy outdoor soil. They all help each other and boost each other's activity. Including the beneficial bacteria that really boosts the performance of the mycorrhizal fungi. Trichoderma, on the other hand, are predators and actively feed on pathogenic fungi which helps keep root rot away.

Don't Trichoderma fungi eat the Mycorrhizae fungi?

Some people have speculated that if Trichoderma eat other fungi then perhaps they eat mycorrhizal fungi. Our reading of Biology papers by scientists that have studied this subject indicates that this is not the case. Trichoderma and mycorrhizal fungi perform different jobs and are not in contention in the rhizosphere if adequate food sources are available. Biosys contains humic acids, which are a great food source for Trichoderma, and help to ensure they don’t feed off the myco’s. Trichoderma pretty much leave the mycorrhizae alone if adequate food sources for the Trichoderma remain available. The trichoderma keenly perform the admirable job of defending the roots and mycorrhizae from attacks by pathogenic fungi like pythium. Perfect!

We next asked Gareth what makes Biosys stand out from other products on the market, as there are one or two that contain combinations of species of microbes that are, amongst others, very similar to the ones in Biosys.

Complete, High Quality Nutrition Included

"Biosys provides organic growth supporting nutrients for all the organisms present. These are humic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates and seaweed extract, providing conditions to ensure optimal microbial growth and balance. This really helps with the efficacy, and makes Biosys stand apart from other products on the market."

It makes a lot of sense to provide quality nutrition for the microbes at the same time as the microbes themselves. Its obvious Biosys has been formulated with a lot of care to create a very "complete" product - a simple to use all-in-one solution for getting growing with beneficials!

Is it just for Soil-in-Pots Growing?

Not everybody grows in pots. There are many growers that like their hydroponics systems such as drippers. Users of drip systems have to be careful not to add any products to their tank that might clog the drip-lines. We asked Gareth if is ok to use Biosys in drip systems:

"You can absolutely use it in drip systems as long as you flush the system with water after use.

The best way to use Biosys through a drip system is on a weekly basis. Wait until the reservoir is low, add Biosys and irrigate through the system. Once the reservoir is empty, top up with water, add nutrients to low strength and allow the next irrigation. This will flush the remaining Biosys through the lines and drippers. You can then top your reservoir up to the desired nutrient strength (1.5 Max ideally) and continue as normal."

We know that when mycorrhizal fungi have colonized a plant's roots, they will grow along with the root, able to reach a stunning length of 80cm for every 1cm of root, and can create up to 160 entry points (per cm of root)! Therefore, the hyphae have a much greater absorption efficiency than roots alone.

How Often to Apply?

We wondered about how frequently Gareth would recommend applying Biosys:

"I'd recommend that Biosys is regularly applied (every 1-2 weeks) to reintroduce organisms that could have a difficult time in intensive plant growth environments (coco/rockwool substrates, mineral feeds etc). Most root dusting products are one off applications and microbial effectively can dwindle over time for reasons mentioned above. Little and often with diverse inputs and stimulants is the logical approach to this.”

We really like the application of Biosys. A fresh microbial powder that you add to water and apply weekly, so easy to integrate into your grow schedule. If you don’t have a grow system and grow in pots of Soil or Coco, simply use it once every 1-2 weeks with just water, this not only helps reduce the conductivity in the growing medium, but also re-inoculates with beneficials and bio-stimulants that gives the plants a real boost. When you think about how often you apply Biosys, it really is a very cost-effective product for the results it delivers.

So, really, no matter what you grow, how you grow it or what you grow it in, Biosys has got the answer for a very easy entry into biological gardening.

It really is a "must-try" for every grower!

Get rid of the Chlorine and Chlorinamine in Your Water so the Microbes work at their Best

Chlorine and Chloramine in tap water inhibits and even kill beneficial microbes. Always treat your feed water with Ecothrive Neutralise before you use it!

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