Trichoderma fungi- ‘harzianum’ and ‘viride’ strains in particular- are well-known bio-fungicides widely sought out by organic growers & gardeners to prevent or help treat soilborne fungal diseases such as Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotinia, Pythium, and Phytophthora. Trichoderma is a saprophytic mycoparasite that emits chitinase, which penetrates cell walls of pathogenic fungi, collecting nutrients from them then degrading them. It also produces antibiotics and toxins that suppress growth of soil pathogens, and metabolites that activate resistance systems of plants. Due to its effectiveness, and due to years of marketing efforts by sages in organic gardening to get its effectiveness recognized, Trichoderma fungi have now reached a point where they are unequivocally accepted as a bio-fungicide.
However, understanding Trichoderma solely in its capacity as a fungicide is a big loss in organic practices. The role and importance of Trichoderma fungi as bio-fertilizers should be examined, given their prominent contributions to plant health and growth.
Let’s examine some of the ways in which Trichoderma functions as a bio-fertilizer: First, Trichoderma latches onto roots, and once it has colonized the area, it starts building symbiotic relationships with the roots. Trichoderma also encourages plants to produce phytohormones, which promote growth, enzymes, which boost metabolism, and other components such as phytoalexins and phenols, which enhance resistance against abiotic stressors (droughts, salinity, heavy metals, extreme temperatures, etc.). Next, Trichoderma induces Auxin-like compounds that promote lateral roots and root hairs. Unlike Mycorrhizal Fungi that extend its own hyphae to mine nutrients, Trichoderma stimulates plant roots, causing them to expand and thus be able to explore more volumes of soil. In this soil, however, there are fixed nutrients which the plant roots cannot immediately absorb. This is where Trichoderma intervenes once again. When interacting with plant roots, Trichoderma solubilizes various insoluble trace elements- e.g. Zn, Cu, Mn, Mg, Fe- through multiple venues including secretion of organic acid, chelation, and reduction processes. During this interaction, Trichoderma also solubilizes a key nutrient- Phosphate- by solubilizing the fixed phosphate in the soil by producing acidic/alkaline phosphatase.
A graphic explaining some of the functions of Mikro-Root:
Through a combination of multiple functions and processes listed above, Trichoderma promotes plant growth, in the manner of a true bio-fertilizer, even without the input of additional fertilizers. However, it should also be noted that several studies show that Trichoderma enhance and exponentially multiply the effectiveness of other bio and non-bio fertilizers when applied together.
In conclusion, Trichoderma promotes plant growth not through a single simple mechanism, but through a holistic approach- suppressing or competing out pathogens, increasing resistance against abiotic stressors, solubilizing insoluble minerals and phosphate, encouraging root growth and nutrient uptake that leads to active photosynthesis, and invigorating plant metabolism:
When you focus on Trichoderma solely as a bio-fungicide, you can’t see the forests for the trees. It’s time we have a broader and wider vision for this amazing beneficial fungus and help it live up to its full potential. Trichoderma needs to be actively proposed and utilized as a bio-fertilizer, beyond its current use as a bio-fungicide. This is the philosophy behind the creation of Mikro-Root, a Trichoderma-based product, here to help you address your plant growth needs and to provide an alternative bio-fertilizer option. Mikro-Root contains two Trichoderma strains that have been meticulously selected, cultivated, and tested. This product has been carefully developed over the years and we, at Microbial Applications, Inc., are proud to finally present it to the world!