Everybody was Fungus Fighting: Examining the symbiotic interactions between Ericaceous plants and their beneficial fungal partnerships with Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi and Trichoderma harzianum

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Florida Southern College
Mycorrhizal fungi form mutually beneficial partnerships with the roots of nearly all plants. The plants provide carbohydrates to the fungi while the fungi increase the surface area in the network of roots, which increases the absorption efficiency of the plant. Ericaceous plants, such as azaleas and blueberries, associate with a unique type of mycorrhizal fungi that has not been widely studied. RootShield, a biological fungicide product produced by BioWorks, employs another type of beneficial fungi, Trichoderma harzianum Rifai strain KRL-AG2, which blocks pathogenic fungi that may cause harm to the plant’s roots. It uses enzymes called chitinases to break down the walls of the harmful fungi. This project sought to investigate whether these two varieties of fungi, both of which are beneficial to the plant, can affect each other and ultimately lead to negative consequences when used in combination. While results were inconclusive, this previously unstudied field has a lot of potential research opportunities, which will ultimately provide valuable information for growers of Ericaceous plants.
Honors Thesis Spring 2020
Ericaceae, Trichoderma, Mycorrhizal fungi, Mycoses