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Fungi by James Hutchinson.

James has worked in the greenkeeping and golf industry for nearly 35 years. During that time, he has been the Environmental Officer for St Andrews and BIGGA’s ecologist.

In this blog James shares his thoughts on the importance of Fungi.

I couldn’t let the chance of developing a blog for Stephen pass by without writing about fungi could I. So here goes. Without fungus, your grasses wouldn’t grow very well, and we would be in a whole heap of trouble – there I’ve said it.

It’s long been known that we should save the bees, our seas and the trees from destruction, and so we should, in fact, avid readers of my columns will know that I am quite happy to save all of the aforementioned from demise – I’m not at the point where I chain myself to a tree, but you get where I’m coming from.

Here’s how grassland fungi work. Grass has the green pigment chlorophyll in its leaves and can therefore create organic molecules from photosynthesis. Fungi cannot - what it can do is to break down minerals and give it to the grass in return for some photosynthesis sugar which the grass has. Grass cannot break down minerals, but fungi can… are you still with me? This shared relationship is called mycorrhizal, a mutual relationship between a plant and some fungi. If we kill of the fungi, we will most likely reduce the grass plant’s survival rate during periods of pressure.

Next time you are digging a bunker face out, or stripping turf from the rough, take a look at the fine mushroom smelling white strands which works their way through the soil – this is the actual fungi, or hyphae and this attaches to the roots in the rhizosphere of the grass – this is when the beneficial relationship begins. Ecology is ace!

The mushrooms you see are merely the fruiting part of the fungus that grows when environmental conditions are suitable (usually autumn and spring). Some can be real beauties like the red and white dotted fly agaric – don’t eat that one though. Here’s a selection from golf courses around the UK.

James Hutchinson.

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