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Monday, October 11, 2010

Nano Network - Arbuscular Mycorrhiza

I needed to get in a "nano" network for Wednesday. What better way to do that then to use symbiotic fungi (Arbuscular Mycorrhiza) as a way to pointing out the networking process among plants and fungi.

There are three stages of AM Fungi (AMF) development:

Germination: Germination of the fungi spore requires the proper soil conditions, but this can be reduced or eliminated by excess phosphorus, and improved by detection of potential host exudates.

Hyphal Growth: If no host is immediately found, the fungus will begin to expand in several ways. First, it creates hyphae to help extend the search. These hyphae "seek out" plant hosts. Likewise, needy hosts will send out chemical signals to be intercepted by these hyphae (chemotoxis).

Symbiosis: When an AMF reaches a host plant, the host creates an infection system so the fungus has immediate access to the vascular system of the PC. The host plant then uses chemical signals to the AMF to prevent it from going "too far" during its integration into the plant's structure.

The symbiotic exchange between the two lifeforms is mutually supportive.

The plant gains:
- phosphorus (especially in phosphorus-poor soils)
- a lower pH in the rhyzosphere
- control of nearby bacteria
- improved soil conditions

The Arbuscular Mycorrhiza gains:
- carbon, water and other nutrients
- host support for further reproduction

This symbiotic relationship is very widespread, and provides support for plants in difficult soil circumstances. It also appears to be important for biodiversity, creating a secondary network of AMF support for inter-species eco-management.

Simulation Possibilities

The simulation option that jumps to mind is something that parallels the "seeking out" of the hyphae, looking for chemical signals, then following them to the host. The fact that there is cellular change when the AMF meets a host plant points to this being a connection of high value. There is also the population aspects, where germination doesn't occur well if there are no plants, and plants may grow poorly without an active AMF population.

This needs further thought, but it appears to be useful for both a graphic simulation and a sonification opportunity.


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