Friday, December 11, 2015

Building Healthy Soils with not so primitive Biological Mechanical Components

File Under: Bad Religious Dogma - or would that be Fogma ?
What if Agriculture after World War II had the same blank Cheque funding for it's own 'Manhattan Project', instead of going down the Green Revolution path brought to us by today's Toxic Know-It-Alls ?
image: USBG.GOV

See this guy over here on the right ? He is Agricultural Ecologist, Dr Jerry Glover who with the help of photographer Jim Richardson of the National Geographic Society and Sculptor Steve Tobin known for his nature exhibits put together a beautiful underground visual of what root systems  in healthy pristine prairie soils actually look like. In so doing, they revealed an unknown hidden world and understanding of a complex root infrastructure that the average person above ground couldn't possibly otherwise visualize or imagine. But for the moment, I'd like to explain why most soils don't actually look like this in nature anymore. Mostly, the reason soils today are in poor condition has to do with the so-called scientific modern day enlightenment which has since 1914 -WWI (but especially since 1950), tried indoctrinate all of us into accepting how & why nature is so horribly flawed, badly designed, terribly inefficient and that only their technological innovations of this world's elites will save us from it's primitive foundations. But are the microbiological things of our natural world really all that primitive ? Interestingly other responsible scientific research is beginning to find out that this type of flawed worldview is itself untrue and in many cases caused irreparable damage in some areas. At the end of this post I'll talk a little more on the above exhibit. But here is a short introductory clip:
"Plant roots are vital components of the earth's ecosystem. They are necessary for all plant growth, including the production of food and nutrients for humans and many other organisms. However, as root systems are out off sight, their beauty and importance often go unnoticed. Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots showcases the presence and importance of roots through visually stunning root representations using the work of agricultural ecologist Dr. Jerry Glover, sculptor Steve Tobin, and photographer Jim Richardson."
(Source)
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So where did Humans go wrong when it comes to Soils & Land Management ?
Image typical of deep soil chiseling of Imperial Valley fields


(Imperial Valley Subsoil Chiseling)
For 20+ years I traveled from my mile high home in the San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs California all the way to Imperial Valley at least once a week, sometimes twice. Often while driving to work in early mornings in summer when I'd pass a field like the one above and world see the farmland subsoil deeply cut into and chiseled as the one above in the photograph. I'd also see parked next to the plowed field the very farm implement or deep plow apparatus responsible for the large gouges in the Earth sitting idle like the one at right here. The landscape down there is an ancient sea bed where the soils are a very fine almost clay-like in structure. Periodically if such deep tillage isn't undertaken, this ground remains hard packed like adobe. The water percolation is almost nil in worst case scenarios when they attempt to flood irrigate. Such deep tillage and later light tilling with smaller plows afterwards are necessary for the soils to restore back to that fluffiness of structure for not only better water percolation, but also crop plant root development. This Southern California valley is a major industrial farming area where a single corporate farm entity may may own land in the 1000s of acres. There is no life to these soils in the healthy microbiological sense. Such industrial farming strategies and practices are what destroy the soil microbial community. Advertisements from Tillage implement companies extol the wonders of their soil ripping products to their potential farmer customers by illustrating how they can prevent stagnant water build up from heavy storms or common flood irrigation practices which no longer percolate into impervious soils. But there is far more that keeps the soils lifeless other than constant regular tillage, that would be the overuse and abuse of synthetic chemicals. 

Image: Blue-Jet SubTiller advertisement


image: business recycling Australia
For decades the soils of this ancient lake bed of Imperial Valley on both sides of the border between the USA and Mexico have been drenched in synthetic fertilizers of all kinds. Herbicides, fungicides and insecticides applied either from the ground or the air also contribute to this damage. Taken altogether, these too kill the healthy soil biology as does excessive uses of plowing and other deep subsoil tillage. This is why these desert valley soils are mostly sterile and strictly mineral based in their structural make up and colour. Pick up a handful of Imperial Valley soil and you will not find any of the rich black soil common with most natural systems. Chemicals, like excessive plowing also help to favour noxious weeds by eliminating the very checks and balances nature has used for 1000s of years to keep weeds under control. Interestingly, all these industrial farm mismanagement practices are identical to other irresponsible land mismanagement practices used by the US Forest Service and Timber Industries. Take the photo  example below of this ridgeline in the Trabuco Ranger District of Cleveland National forest in the Santa Ana Mountains of Southern California which has been stripped of it's mycorrhizal hosts (chaparral) and completely replaced by weeds which thrive in a bacterial system of soil creation. Destroy above ground mycorrhizal hosts and you destroy the underground mycorrhizal grid and allow a bacterial system to replace it which favours weeds, particularly those weeds we call Ruderals. 

Image - Chaparral Institute


Image: Chaparral Institute
Somewhere back in the 1960s-70s, it was ignorantly assumed that stripping most all major ridgelines of their chaparral was a great idea for a major firebreak to control any future wildfire event. However, this replacing of the chaparral plant community (which is host to mycorrhizal fungi) by these regular control burns, vegetative mastication, synthetic chemicals, and/or bulldozing actually allowed a bacterial underground system to be created which favoured invasive grasses and other noxious weeds like cheatgrass, mustards, radishes, star thistle, etc. This turned out to be a huge backfiring mistake. Oddly enough those ignorant irresponsible practices are the exact mirror image of industrial farming methods which create far more problems than they were originally meant to solve. The result for the forestry was not stopping wildfire, but rather the creation of a mismanaged landscape scenario which actually fed worse wildfire condition scenarios than preventing them. If the idea was to slow down wildfires, the true reality resulted in speeding up their spread. From that point the domino effect gets worse. Take for example the usage of slurry type phosphate based fire retardants used in stopping fires. Would you believe this actually spreads Cheatgrass and other runderals ? Take a look below.

Photo by Jed Little
A year after the Fourth of July fire on Mount Jumbo, a long green line of cheatgrass is visible where fire retardant was dropped. The red slurry retardant allows some exotic weeds to replace native grasslands, according to preliminary results of a study by Salish Kootenai College and the University of Montana. Now read this portion I've quoted below from the online journal, The Missoulian:
"The study raises the possibility that the red slurry, while helping to slow a wildfire's advance, could ultimately worsen grassland fires by promoting the growth of cheatgrass, one of the most flammable invasive weeds in the West."
"According to preliminary results, the retardant's fertilizerlike nutrients significantly increased cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard, both exotic annual species, at the expense of native perennial grasses on the mountainside."
"The invaders benefit from the jolt of nitrogen and phosphorous in the slurry, which native and exotic perennials largely ignore because they are accustomed to nutrient-poor soils. Cheatgrass and tumbleweed mustard didn't spread where the fire burned alone, but they exploded in areas that were burned and hit with retardant, the study found. The two invaders have spread from 51 percent to 88 percent on Mount Jumbo since the retardant was dropped, although two perennial invaders, spotted knapweed and Dalmation toadflax, decreased."
(Source - Missoulian)
I literally hate going for a hike and receiving the nasty end of an assault of stickers from walking through a mismanaged field infected by a  Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion. These stickers in boots and socks are so incredibly annoying that you need to stop periodically to take the boots off and clean both boots and socks to regain your sanity. They can also be dangerous to your pets and other domestic animals. If that is true, then it is also true that their overwhelming presence is not good for wildlife either. Now there were a couple of interesting things referenced in that article by the Missoulian. Notice that these annual plants [ruderals = Cheatgrass, Mustards, Radishes, Tumbleweeds, etc] thrive in a nutrient enriched soil from the presence of excessive amounts of synthetic inputs deliberately applied to soils [for whatever reason or purpose], while the perennials that were   referenced in the article like Spotted Knapweed & Dalmation Toadflax have actually decreased. So why was that ? Are not those two plants also noxious invasive weeds ? Yes they are, but they are not ruderals, they have mycorrhizal roots and mycorrhizal fungi will disconnect in the presence of excessive synthetic nutrient inputs. They are invasive weeds in the sense that they originate from eastern Europe and Asia. Minus the checks and balances from their former ecosystems they then thrive and spread in North America. But they are also mycorrhizal hosts. Clearly human ignorance which breeds irresponsible decision making in so many areas of life have snowballed to the present out of control domino effect we find ourselves in. We are battling Nature instead of working with nature for a solution with an elite few making a profit off the misery of others. Nature has always had the most efficient solutions for balance and high yield success through it's genetic programming for 10s of 1000s of years irrespective how anyone says it originally got that way. Now take a look at another area [land restoration projects] which once again illustrate the how the overuse or reliance on mechanized innovations and synthetic chemicals cause setbacks and delays in plant community restorations. This example below comes from the Coachella Valley which is also located in Southern California just north of Imperial Valley. About the year 2001 a report came out on the success of ridding a desert oasis area known as 1000 Palms of an invasive tree called Tamarisk which dried up the streams and ponds and ruined the environment for the native palms and other desert oasis plants and animals which depended upon them for food and shelter. There were several methods and techniques employed like bulldozing, synthetic Chemicals and old fashioned hand clearing. There were two outstanding references of an observation which serve to illustrate the two superior & inferior methods for success from a single sentence in that whole report at the bottom in the last paragraph that spoke volumes to me. As far as I know, I am the only one who has ever caught this important gem of an observation:
"Most areas were cut by hand, thereby selectively cutting out the tamarisk while leaving the native shrubs unharmed. Only a 7.5 acre (3 ha) section that was heavily infested (> 95%) was cleared using a bulldozer."
"In the 7.5 acres (3 ha) that was bulldozed, natives established much more slowly than in the hand-cleared areas."
(Source)
So two main techniques employed at this restoration site. One was the commonly used conventional mechanized version by way of large industrial piece of equipment we call a Bulldozer with rippers and the other was the use of volunteers to hand clearing and selectively cut out the cancerous invasive plants within the ecosystem and leaving only the healthy native ones. Okay I get the Bulldozer because it is fast and efficient at eradication and the clearing by hand takes recruiting otherwise busy volunteers and a lot of sweat. But okay so what ? It's the long term goal that we are looking at here if indeed there is a noble goal. One leaves a healthy intact mycorrhizal grid under the ground with cover and the other sterilizes the landscape as some sort of clean slate or blank canvas ready for natives to be replanted by spreading seed on the ground and raking it in to germinate and rebuild the ecosystem. One fixes the situation more permanently with little maintenance afterwards and the other being a quick fix will have to be revisited again and again, year after year and still not get it correct. I immediately recognized the differences and reasons for both success and failure [or delay]  because of my own practices on my acreage up in the San Jacinto Mountains which tower over the Coachella Valley. Prior to moving onto my land in 1985, the previous owner had cleared with Bulldozer two large patches of chaparral down to the clean decomposed granite. Other areas were cut and cleared by hand. In all those 20+ years of living there, the cleared areas by Bulldozer always experienced a fight with weeds and attempting to plant any chaparral natives back over the cleared patches of land was always a lengthy process with only a few ever making it. However, in Chaparral area where some places required removal by hand, the ground never suffered. In fact where I would remove a single shrub to make room for a tree seedling to be planted, establishment success was always 100% as opposed to maybe 20%-30% on the bare soils. The reason of course was that the new seedling was instantly inserted into a healthy mycorrhizal grid which hydrated and nourished the young delicate seedlings and the other area had no grid for successful tree establishment which left seedlings to their own struggle for survival, hence the highest failure rates. This was the same method I followed after helping my former landlord Ken Dawson of Terwilliger establish a forest in the chaparral a few years previous. His property was in the Terwilliger part of Anza Valley and considered at the edge of high desert. It was mostly Chaparral covered [Manzanita, Sugarbush & predominently Redshank or Ribbonwood]. 

image mine: 2013

Large specimens of all three chaparral species were left intact by use of a small scale one man backhoe [the size of a small garden Kubota tractor] which was expertly used to surgically remove any unwanted vegetation to allow space for bare root tree planting without damaging other healthy shrubs. All the San Bernardino National Forestry officials & the Nursery at L.A. Moran up at Davis where we purchased those bare root pines said it would never work, especially if we didn't strip clear the land bare from competing brush. The reality of course is that the responsible science-based research being done today has found that the "Survival of the Fittest" religious dogma no longer holds water. The truth is that in mycorrhizal networked ecosystems, there is a mutual cooperation of all the organisms to ensure the health and survival success of all the members of the plant community system.  The chaparral plant community also has some of the deepest plant roots known to bore through impossible soils. They perform an amazing biological function of physics called hydraulic lift and redistribution of soil moisture which I'll reference below. The ONLY time this is  found in conflict is when the wrong soil conditions allow ruderals to invade a mycorrhizal system which has been destroyed through bad land management. Tilling, synthetic inputs, excessive use of fire, and last but not least irresponsible overgrazing by domestic animals with no wild instinct smarts to move on all contribute to long term damage.

image: mine 2013
As you can see the Chaparral, in this case Redshank or Ribbonwood is still intact and thriving, yet so are the Jeffrey and Coulter Pines. The soils on this particular property are extremely shallow with many boulders and fractured rocky soils under the ground. Still the system is a giant success because of replicating nature, even if we didn't realize the full impact and knowledge at the time in what we had done. I later went back and inoculated some areas with an ecto-mycorrhizal fungi from Plant Health Care Inc called Tree Savor Injectable which contains only a single species of Pisolithus tinctorius, which is an ectomycorrhizal fungi. The needle holding capacity of most all those pine trees were 4 or five years which is excellent proof of the system's self-sustaining function even during this present west coast drought which has hit all of California. I'll post a link below in references.
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Collective Intelligent of the Enlightened Higher Lifeforms versus the Primitives ???  
Image Dr Wendy Taheri
So what is it exactly that is going on under the ground that makes these specific instances either a  success story or miserable failure ? It is the practices that either a landscaper, gardener, farmer or forester chooses to employ along with other methods of sound or irresponsible land maintenance. Many believe that the Scientific advances of our modern world are the only thing that will save mankind. But the exact opposite is true. Take for example the image at the right here of agricultural soil which has been worked decades utilizing all the modern day science-based tillage practices coupled with Synthetic inputs. The round spheres are fungal spores and these were culled from 25 grams of industrial agricultural soil. The photograph was taken by Dr Wendy Taheri who is a Research Microbiologist who today spends time educating and helping American Farmers who are hungering for a change. BTW, those tiny white round dots are not spores at all, but nematode eggs. Now compare that photo with the photograph below.

Image Dr Wendy Taheri
This photograph here at left is a mere one gram of healthy natural prairie soil as compared to the contrasting photo above which you may remember was 25 grams of industrial agricultural soil. Notice the difference in spore biodiversity count and the high density concentration ? This could also be illustrative of most any forest soil or holistically managed farm commercial soils where large diversity of perennial cover crops are used as hosts which encourages diverse numbers of these endo-mycorrhizal fungi. The above result is where no tillage was practiced and no chemical inputs were ever touching this soil. The bottom soil photograph is the result of supposedly primitive microbes [according to the religiously driven scientific dogma] and the top photograph is the result of science-based industrial agricultural practices of intensive plowing, synthetic chemical inputs [fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides & insecticides] and last but not least the GMO plants which are believed to be improvements on nature's flaws by the Biotechnology industry. All of these brought to us by superior higher collective human intelligence. I can only imagine that the ongoing choices by the majority of farmers, landscapers, foresters and the average home gardener is the imaginary misunderstanding & assumption that the holistic biomimetic practices are more work and sweat with little results to show for the hard work. The reality is that it's the exact opposite. To conclude, let's go back to Dr Jerry Glover's National Geographic Gallery.
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Now the Gallery below of the art show I opened up with Dr Jerry Glover and National Geographic
National Geographic & Dr Jerry Glover

Here, Dr. Jerry Glover works in a soil pit at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas with a garden host fitted with a jet nozzle to expose what the rooting structure on two entirely different plants look like. On the left, we see the deeper roots of a perennial wheatgrass are displayed, while on the right we see the more shallow roots of an annual wheat are visible. Notice the side by side contrast below ? The exhibit theme was to demonstrate how the bulk of a prairie grass plant exists out of sight, with anywhere from eight to fourteen feet of roots extending down deep into the earth. Now why should any of that matter ? Besides being incredibly larger in size, these hidden root mass infrastructures accomplish a lot in storing carbon, nourishing soil, increasing bioproductivity, and preventing erosion.  Unfortunately, most of these productive, perennial grass functions of the past are more rare than they once were. This is because they have been replaced by ruderals (annuals) which live a mere few months (six months if lucky).



Common annual variety of annual Wheat here are contrasted next to perennial Wheatgrass. Notice perennials, which come back year after year have a root system which will grow to a depth of few meters, while the annual varieties perhaps a mere foot. This is also illustrative of all ruderals versus perennials in the wild setting. A farmer or rancher with a pasture of abundant diversity of perennials is going to weather the dry season or even drought much better than say those common western states pastures where short lived ruderals such as cheatgrass and other annuals [runderals] reign supreme. This is why many western rangelands and pasture can only have a limited use early in the year. What is most important to a pasture is having a large biodiversity of perennial plants dominating the vast area which encourages an underground  microbiological community of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and healthy nitrogen fixing  bacteria to allow the soils to breathe. Any rainwater falling on such a landscape will fully percolate into the earth as opposed to running off. This is important to underground storage of water to be tapped into later in the dry season. In times of heavier rainy seasons, several meter deep root infrastructures may also facilitate a process called hydraulic descent which may also help restore underground aquifers and replenish natural springs. The other being hydraulic lift & redistribution, but more on that below. Again, these are also things which even many farmers who do practice  biodiverse perennial cover crops may be completely ignorant  themselves of the full line of services being accomplished by perennial plant root systems other than mere water percolation through healthy aggregated soil alone. More on that phenomena below. But here is a link to the root system galley:
(National Geographic Deep Root Gallery)
Now take as another example the common picturesque California Oak Savanna settings that are often romanticized in photos. 

Image - Mine (2013)

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve (Oak-Grassland Savanna)

This photo above is in my home San Diego County in Southern California. While it is picturesque, the historical view with these Englemann Oaks would have had low interior sagescrub or chaparral growing all around it as opposed to these nonnative grasses. These grasses were created by ranchers in the early years to raise cattle. But land management practices from northern Europe and back eastern United States just never worked out here in the west. Africa had the same problems with Europeans ignorant of local ecosystem functions imposed northern European land management practices with domestic livestock which had disastrous consequences. The Cheatgrass dominance in the west also has negative implications in the fight against climate change. Cheatgrass and other ruderals are the worst in terms of carbon sequestration. In 2006, researchers found (Here) that the invasion of cheatgrass in the West had turned some areas from carbon sinks to a net source of carbon. The invasion of cheatgrass and all nonnative ruderals altogether have released up to nearly nine million tons of carbon into the atmosphere and will likely release far more as time goes on. Throughout the California Savannas where Cheatgrass and other ruderals now dominate, many areas often burn annually and actually thrive as a result of this constant burning, whether prescribed, accidental or intentionally set fires. They also have a lousy shallow root system which means that far less carbon is stored in underground root systems than was once true of the native perennials like chaparral or even biodiverse species of prairie plants in true Savannas. There is something else the ruderals cannot assist in accomplishing and that is both hydraulic life & redistribution of water for the beneficial function of the entire system. Aside from the loss of a mycorrhizal grid underground network there is something else missing. These two subjects are mostly a mystery of sorts to most people, but they are important phenomena to have an understanding of if your farm, ranch landscape, gardening or habitat restoration project are to be a success. Admittedly, even scientists do not discuss much about the phenomena to the public in general.
Importance of Hydraulic Lift & Redistribution
This is one natural phenomena which most likely no longer functions properly if at all in most modern day farm pastures and Ranch grasslands and sadly there is not a lot of discussion about it. Those old growth plant root infrastructures provide an invaluable service in the summertime of hydraulic lift and redistribution of water resources from deep in the earth up to the surface layers. But only certain specific plants with the deepest root systems can perform this task of drawing up water, sending it laterally toward other plants by means of the mycorrhizal grid for the night time benefit of other shallower rooted plants. This is the reason some holistically maintained pastures, even in traditionally dry western geographies have a healthy green even during the dry season. The animated illustration below often used by Professor Todd Dawson reveals how the system actually functions.


But there is even more than hydraulic lift at play here. Some way somehow the water has to be driven deeper than mere soil percolation would allow. This is where an reverse in hydraulic function of root systems must come into play.
What has happened to Hydraulic Descent ???

I once read where researchers once discovered something interesting about the common Mesquite Tree of the deserts in the southwestern United States. When the tree is dormant and not visibly growing above ground during the winter rainy seasons, they perform a phenomena called hydraulic descent where their root systems collect as much surface rainwater percolation as possible and pump it deep into the earth. Now, Mesquite & other desert trees and shrubs have some of the deepest taproot systems known in the world. They can actually bore through the earth down to a depth of a couple hundred feet. Please take note of the animation above. What effect has the loss of this phenomena had on large aquifers and natural springs ? How much does such a phenomena have on actually benefiting groundwater recharge beyond helping pasture to maintain green ecosystem viability during the dry season ? What practical applications can be applied in biomimetic inspiration in creating technological innovations such as irrigation systems which save water as opposed to the present wastefulness we have now ? My reasons for bringing the subject of hydraulic lift - descent & redistribution into the discussion is that they cannot be ignored as a naturally occurring phenomena either in the wild, farming, landscaping & gardening. When w landscaper prepares a design on any new project, all such consideration of these remarkable mechanisms alone with the microbiological nanomachines we've looked at earlier should be considered for the long term viable life sustaining system you are wishing to establish. Same with the farm, ranch or habitat restoration. People need to think in terms of their projects being a living mutually cooperating biological machine. While it's wonderful that farmers, professional landscapers and your average home gardener are thinking in terms of practicing a holistic biological approach minus the chemicals, it's also important to widen out and have a peripheral view other other factors that provide checks and balances into the system. For example attracting the beneficial predators both large and small. I'll provide more links below in references. 

So let's recap what we know!
All plant ecosystems basically work and function identically with a little a little tweaking taken into account for climate and geography. The purpose (don't look at the term as a dirty word) of annuals is important in that when land is disturbed they quickly cover the ground. Most of their capabilities are offensive with very little resources being used in defenses against predators. Creating an abundance of seed to replicate themselves is what they do, but irresponsibly land manage and you provide an out of balance scenario for them to explode upon the landscape. All Tree, Shrub and Prairie systems are heavily mycorrhizal. Mycorrhizae in all systems of management dislike over fertility or nutrient abundance. Bacterial systems limit root infrastructure and in farming excessive synthetic nutrient inputs are nothing more than a numbers game where it is hoped that 20-30% sucks in somewhere around the plant. Because mycorrhizae is mostly absent from such systems, weeds (ruderals) thrive and more synthetic inputs are needed to rid the system of unwanted plants that nature would have otherwise kept in check. Excess synthetics end up percolating into the earth polluting groundwater or as runoff into aquatic systems during the heavy part of the rainy season creating further pollution and ecosystem disruption. All areas of human endeavour when it comes to plant system management like habitat restoration, forestry, farming, ranching, landscaping right down to home gardening either benefit or suffer depending on how closely you mirror your techniques to how nature really works. Tillage is also another limiting and damaging practice to mycorrhizal soil structure. Limiting tillage as much as possible will maintain this life sustaining system underground which in reality is not so primitive after all as science would have you believe. Take all of these micro-organisms away and see how time we higher lifeforms have left to live. If life truly is a mere mistaken bundle of compromises, then what the heck, maybe the Biotechs and Agro-Chemical companies are doing nothing wrong and we should just accept the consequences of putting our faith and trust in these toxic know-it-alls. 
In Conclusion: The Winners & Losers
New technological advances by mankind's Elites have seemingly made life easier for the rest of us when we only look at them from an on the surface viewpoint. These bio-innovations created in some high security lab however have put mankind and the natural world at risk. The fate of the world is being placed into the hands of unaccountable elites in bed with powerful political interests who speak from one side of their mouths of their products being the result of ethical responsibility while at the same time being obsessed with the pursuit of fame and personal enrichment out of the other side of their mouths. The problem is our messed up world is the result of a gross lack of Bioethics. These people know full well what their products are doing, but their strategy is to play the dumb card. When a newer consequence strikes, they simply create another synthetic solution to treat the symptoms while totally turning a blind eye to the cause. The pharmaceutical industry works the same way, but hey, are the also not related ? So from a short term monetary, fame, glitter and glory standpoint there are certainly those who appear to come of the winners. Farmers are also the real losers, not the agro-chemical corporations. If any farmer actually becomes truly informed, educated and understands that most of their success is in changing practices as opposed to spending vast amounts of money on synthetic inputs along with magic seeds, these giant corporate entities would fold. Can you now understand the reasons for vast amount of financial resources being funneled into these damage control public relations lobbying by corporate business interests ? The vast majority of other lifeforms including humans will also lose out in the end. I know of no real solution as far as implementing or reversing the damage done on a massive global scale. You all read the News lately, so you tell me. That doesn't mean the information and understanding on how to use the clean viable information doesn't exist. It does. But there always seems to be something powerfully negative out there to throw the proverbial wrench in the works. The best that can be done is for those few individuals who actually get it to make practical application of what they know to use out on the farm, ranch, landscape or garden and allow the light of success to do the talking for you.

 How long can people really keep trusting these fallible researchers to be bio-ethically responsible ? Ask yourself, what's been their track record thus far during this modern age of enlightenment ?

Some Further Reading References
http://www.californiachaparral.com/threatstochaparral.html
Dawson Property Forest Establishment 1983
Hydraulic Life & Redistribution - Hydraulic Descent
Roots: 'Hydraulic Lift and Redistribution'
Hydraulic Descent: An Ecosystem's Tool for Filling Vast Underground Reservoirs
Why Streams still flow in California's officially designated "Exceptional Drought" zone 
Deep Root Irrigation based on Hydraulics Behaviour in Ecosystems
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks

This area below will remain open for any updates to add


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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Snap, Crackle & Pop!, Rumor Has it that the Lightning gods make the Mushrooms (truffles)

File Under: "Peer-Review" - "Settled Science" - "Science-Based" & that holiest of holies - "Scientific Consensus"

Image: greekboston.com

The ancient Greek god Zeus (Roman god: Jupiter) was the incomparable, supposedly the first of the all the other gods and an exceptionally formidable figure of the Olympians. The name Zeus signifies “splendid” or “sky.” Often alluded to as the sky god who controlled lightning (regularly utilizing it as a weapon) and thunder. For years scientists have called the unexplained phenomena of Lightning and Thunderstorms triggering the abundant appearance of truffles after such rainfall events as nothing more than ancient myths or fables propagated by the both Greek and Roman philosophers. In the middle east the Bedouin peoples have for centuries collected the white Desert Truffles after thunderstorms and same with many nomadic peoples of Africa who collect the Kalahari Truffle which colonizes a shrub of the Rock Rose family after thunderstorms. So there is indeed evidence from many historical eras and cultures from around the globe, but as usual our modern world's intellectuals view such accounts as nothing more than anecdotal evidence. So what is anecdotal evidence ? Anecdotal evidence is a term they apply to a story account which regard as unreliable or hearsay. Where there may be only one or a few anecdotes presented in the story, it is then assumed that there is a large chance that the narrative may be unreliable due to biased cherry-picked observations. I've always found the expression, "anecdotal evidence" to be used by intellectuals when they find themselves  incapable of explaining any mysterious phenomena. It's yet another sort of default answer taken from their debate toolbox. In other words in their small Hypothesis Myopia worldview, if a well known respected scientist has researched and written a paper about it, and if this paper has not been "peer-reviewed", and if it has not been published in a respected "science-based" journal, and only if it has been accepted by a "scientific consensus", only then should anyone consider it "settled science." Well, I beg to differ and in my 3 decades of experiencing I always counted on this amazing this phenomena when going out to collect such mycorrhizal truffles which was always fruitful after such monsoonal rainfall events in the summer. And I might add in the same exact locations year after year for a couple of decades. But this doesn't mean that both Greeks and Romans were wrong about what they saw either, just perhaps in the way they went about in explaining the reasons behind what they saw would be odd. I mean, viewing a thunderstorm as a war between gods throwing lightning bolts at each other isn't really scientific is it ? Here is what writer, Anna McHugh of the website, "Crazy About Mushrooms", had to say about those Greek & Roman stories.
"According to some Greek authors, this great god Zeus hurled “mushroom seed” to earth on lightning bolts, which explained the sudden appearance of fruiting fungi after storms. The Romans similarly assumed that mushrooms and thunderstorms were inexplicably linked, and most Roman-era writers who attempted to explain mushroom biology noted that thunderstorms were critically important in the life cycle of fungi. As history informs us, the Roman Empire followed that of the fractionalized Greek world power. As with so many other things, the Romans also looked to the Greeks for an understanding of fungi (truffles), and Roman literature related to mushrooms leans heavily on Aristotle’s Natural Histories, which classified mushrooms as plants with invisible seeds. Other Greek writers called mushrooms “sons of the gods,” because they appeared mysteriously in the wake of thunderstorms and caused much puzzlement to the curious and clever Greek thinkers of the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE.
(Source)
Interestingly, another individual by the name of Robert Gordon Wasson (1898-1986), an Ethnomycologist [I didn't even know there was such a thing], wrote this about some written historical accounts of thunderstorms being associated with mushrooms.
"Lightningbolt and Mushroom"

"The inquirer who turns to Littre to learn about truffles, on reading the entry under truffe, comes upon a nugget of curious information that certainly fails to catch his attention. It seems in certain regions of France (presumably there where truffles abound) the country folk in thundery weather are wont to say, Voild un ban temps pour les truffes, 'What fine weather it is for truffles!' Why in thun- dery weather? Not when it rains, mind you, but when it thunders. Nothing in Littre alerts the reader to the mystery that here lies hidden. The saying of these French rustics seems to be one of the surviving traces in Europe of a belief that reaches back in time deep into prehistory and in space wherever Eurasians or their descendants have lived. It is the end of Ariadne's thread that we propose to follow far and to a far-reaching end." 
"Pliny the Elder declared that truffles were disposed to grow in the time of autumnal rains, and above all (in the full-bodied Elizabethan translation of Philemon Holland) 'if the aire be troubled and disquieted with many thunders: during that season there will be good store of such Mushromes, &ic, especially (I say) if it thunder much': 
'De tuberibus haec tradwitur peculiariter: Cumfuerint imbres autumnales, ac tonitrua crebra, tune nasci, & maxime e tonitribus.' [Hist. Nat., bk 19:37]
When Philemon Holland around 1600 rendered tuberibus, 'truffles', by 'mush- romes', the word 'truffle' and the plant it represents were as yet unknown to the English-speaking world. Juvenal wrote of the longed-for thunder in springtime [sic] that replenishes the table with truffles: 
'Post hunc tradentur tubera, si ver tune erit et facient optata tonitrua cenas maiores.' [Satire V: 116-118]
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Possible Explanation for what may be happening by Tom Volk

Tom Volk, Professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, had an excellent scientific explanation for why he believes storms with lightning and thunder trigger the growth of mycorrhizal truffles. His explanation came from another page on his website where the subject titled: "Terfezia and Tirmania, Desert Truffles (terfez, kama, p/faqa) Delicacies in the sand or manna from Heaven?" In this article he mentions the associations between a couple of ecto-mycorrhizal species with plants of various the Rock Rose desert or Mediterranean shrubs (family Cistaceae). He stated that this may also provide an explanation for folklore shared by Bedouins in the Israeli Negev and truffle hunters in Morocco, claiming that truffles will grow where lightning strikes during thunderstorms. So it was nice that he mentioned the folklore of Bedouins who for centuries may have been eye witnesses to this intriguing phenomena as well as African Bush peoples and Australia's Aboriginals, but here he provides a possible explanation as quoted below:
A possible explanation by Lightning triggering Truffles

"Absorption of nitrates by the plant is enhanced considerably by the truffle, because the truffle’s mycelia and ascocarps reduce nitrate at a much higher rate than the rootlets of the plant alone. This is believed to play an important role in the release of spores. It may also provide at least a partial explanation for the persistent observation made by desert truffle collectors that strong lightning during rainy thunderstorms in fall will bring out the truffles in large quantities during the spring. Nitrogen is an abundant element. About 80% of the air is nitrogen. Inorganic nitrogen may exist in the free state as nitrite (NO2-), nitrate (NO3-), or ammonia (NH3+). It can also exist in the free state as a gas (N2). During a rainstorm accompanied by lightning, a very high electrical potential is discharged instantaneously, and nitrogen can be dissociated to nitrogen atoms or nitrogen free radicals. The atoms and free radicals can form nitrogen compounds with water molecules, which include hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms. These compounds are water soluble and are dissolved in the water drops surrounding them, which in turn carry them down to the ground. The hydrogen-nitrogen-oxygen compounds have ionic nature, and can easily form potassium salt, natrium salt, and other cationic metal salts once they hit the ground where these metal cations selling truffles in the open market.  photo courtesy of M.M. Mirrehare available. Some of these nitrogen-hydrogen-oxygen metal salts are effective fertilizers. Those could be present in much higher concentrations in the soil after massive lightning and thunder rainstorms have occurred. It is known that fungi require nitrogen compounds in order to initiate fruiting. Maybe the persistent claim made by many local collectors that truffles abound in the areas hit by strong lightning and thunder rainstorms, has a scientific base. The Bedouins of the Negev even call desert truffles ‘the thunder fungus’."
(Source)
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Tom Volk's - "Dog Turd Fungus"
Image: Tom Volk
I can hear you thinking, "This is the most beautiful Fungus of the Month ever...." Well maybe not, but this month's fungus is useful and appealing in many other ways.  I can still remember the first time I saw this fungus in nature. I was on one of the Alexander H. Smith Lake States Forays in the early 1990's (way back in the last century...) with other midwestern mycologists, and a jokester grad student found this fungus. He thought he had found some dog droppings, and, trying to make a joke, he brought it on the end of a stick to his professor, saying, "Look at the nice fungus I found for you." However the joke was on the student, because he had actually found Pisolithus tinctorius! Ever since then I have called it the dog turd fungus. I have also seen it called "dead man's fist" (not dead man's fingers), dyemaker's false puffball, and simply "dyeball." In my experience, this fungus can most commonly be found growing associated with conifers (or occasionally oaks) in areas that are very sandy or otherwise have very poor soil. Pisolithus tinctorius is widely distributed throughout North America and other continents, and I have personally seen it in Wisconsin, Mississippi, northern California, Florida, and Massachusetts. It's always a fun find and can be very abundant in some areas. Maybe you can play some tricks on your mushroom hunting companions if you find it.
(Source)
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How Tom Volk's 'Dog Turd Fungus' was a turning point in my understanding of the  importance of Mycorrhizae in 1983
Image: Cheryl Dean (Deep Canyon Blog)

Image: Mine (2014) Julian, Ca
The photograph above is the Hamilton Creek Canyon area east of Anza Valley California. This is taken from a pullout on Hwy 74. What first intrigued me back in 1981 when I first move up into the San Jacinto Mountains and in particular this canyon, was it's rugged fractured rocky geology with almost no soils and the masses of huge Pines and Oaks which inhabited this area. Like most people who were schooled in the 1970s with conventional practices of industrial agriculture and landscaping, I had only really heard slight reference and/or rumor of the incredible mutualism which existed in the natural world's plant communities. Going back to Hamilton Creek Canyon, I was curious how those huge trees were able to exist on what appeared to be an impossible landscape. Both sides of the Canyon walls are made up of this same sterile looking rocky geology. Climbing up these canyon sides was a challenge as the rocks easily dislodge and slippage was often. At a couple of points where I dislodge larger rocks, I noticed on the undersides where numerous white fungal strands of an ectomycorrhizal fungi were everywhere underneath this Martian looking landscape. That was my first huge clue that the rumors were correct. Further up along the tops of the ridges I found my first answers in 1983 where truffle examples of a fungi called Pisolithus tinctorius were all over the place. They look identical to the example I took a photo of in 2014 on my last visit to California you see in the picture above right. The truffles when fully matured and dry look like stones. What I noticed was that they were always associated near and around all Oaks (Scrub, Interior Live, Engelmann, etc) and Pines (Coulter, Jeffrey, Parry, etc). They were also always abundant a month after the first summer monsoonal rains came up from Mexico and more so than Springtime.   

Image: Mine (2014) Julian Ca, next to US 25¢ coin for scale
Back in those days I was pretty much on my own. There was no internet to easily type in key words and/or phrases into a Google search bar and obtain an instantaneous plethora of numerous references to mycology. You either went to the library or consulted an expert on the phone or in person, but it was tough even back  then if you were ignorant of all the terminology used by the experts. Also back then most of the scientific papers were mostly available to other researchers, not really the public. There were no inoculum producing companies in existence and they would be more than a decade away. So trial and error on my part was the norm. Mostly I'd open up the dried powdery chocolate brown puffballs and mix the spore powder in the soils when planting any trees and shrubs. In those days I had no clue of PT Mycorrhizal fungi being host specific to only certain types of trees and shrubs. I had no understanding of the differences between ecto & endo mycorrhizas. But once the 1990s came with the opening of the internet, all sorts of information doors opened up regarding mycology. But not much info on the Thunderstorm and truffle formation phenomena. Mostly if it was referenced at all it was usually in a negative derogatory put down of being nothing more than a myth, fable or something of folklore found only in a Farmer's Alamanac believed on by anti-science Luddites. No matter, my successes with Pine and Oak inoculation, though crude at first was successful. And when I collected them, it was a mere two or three weeks after major monsoonal thunderstorms.  


But it was this personal observation of numerous truffles emerging from the soils near oaks and pines after first several monsoonal season thunderstorms that gave me the hint there may be something to this so-called folklore. In fact more so than the appearance of the Springtime truffles. Over the years I identified the best places for truffle appearance and would collect a few weeks after the first storms appeared. Like amazing clock work there they always were. I'd wait for some time because with these truffles you want them dried out and cured so to speak. What I wanted was the dried truffles with spores, not the fresh ones with white flesh underground which are edible. On that edible note, I've observed squirrels and soils insects like Sow Bugs and Earwigs eating these PT mycorrhizas which were almost always half ripened. You will often find a dried truffle above ground still growing below ground with the new white flesh. This strategy seems to encourage hungry living things to dine on them while being coating with spores to carry to newer locations. Of course if broken, they will also spread spores into the wind. The PT truffles have a chocolate brown powder which has an aroma reminiscent of English Toffee or Caramel. Caution should always be used in trying not to breath any spores of any kind as they can have an effect on the lungs. This has been noted in the past with many mushrooms and I'll post a link in the references on this below.

forestryimages.org
Everyone should know that this is just one of 1000s of varieties of fungi which benefit plants. Specifically I have always found this one on the fringes of the forests in the hotter drier regions. There are however several unique varieties of Pisolithus all over the globe with uniquely developed characteristics for those regions. I've never really found it in old growth forests, but that's not to say it isn't present there or in other habitats, but I've just never collected it in such environments. Dr Donald Marx of Plant Health Care Inc (PHC) said of all the species of mycorrhizal fungi, this particular PT fungi is the best at old mining site rehabilitation and reforestation. Indeed, I have always found it doing well on the fringes of forests and in areas where tree movement creeps into the chaparral. The region of the southwestern United States benefits by it's presence. It increases water and nutrient uptake by 200%, although some have said as much as 800%. Still, 200% isn't bad. My experience on my property is that when I inoculated pines I've planted on my property (believe it or not most always in Summer), the first occurrence of the truffle on the pines was a small thumb sized truffle like the one you see in the picture at the right here. Other than that there usually will be no other noticeable change observed on the plant. Now I say usually because that doesn't mean that is the rule. I'm just saying that the first month after truffle formation at the base of the small seedling or sapling after I've inoculated, I've just never personally noticed any improvement in growth. But there may well be other circumstances where growth and vigor is immediate. What you will notice are a couple of other important things that following Spring. First. The leaves of Oaks or needles of Pines will always be huge and stem growth from buds often shoot out a foot of new growth. This happened to me a year prior to selling my property in 2001. In 1988 I brought down a meter tall Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii) sapling from the town of Idyllwild to the north in the higher elevation country which I had rescued from a Highway road cutout slide one winter when the rains were heavy. I immediately planted it in an out of sight spot on my property's heavy chaparral plant cover. The first two years it did very well, but thereafter it did poorly and I forgot about it. I never inoculated at time of planting because I was rushed and just in a hurry. Mostly I forgot I had it and periodically every couple years I'd stumble across where I planted the tree. The growth of stems at the end of the 1990s was at best one inch off each bud of central leader and side branches per year. Leaves were a mere inch long and the tree just struggled to survive. The summer prior to my leaving I was out inoculating with (PHC) Tree Saver Injectable on other plants, when I again stumbled upon this Black Oak I had planted and forgotten. So I thought what's to lose. I'll post a picture and link about this PHC product in the references below. In my opinion, this specific product is the best on the market for Pisolithus tinctorius colonization, but I'll explain why at the bottom. But after boring several 2 or 3 inch deep holes in the short drip area around the Black Oak and deeply watering, abouta month later the same thumb nail sized truffles appear as per habit at the base of this Oak Sapling. However, the following Spring the effect on growth was both shocking and outstanding. I was blown away and could have kicked myself as to why I did not do this a decade earlier. The central leader and all major branch bud stems grew over a foot in growth length and the leaves were huge with some being 7 inches in length or more. My only regret back then is that I never took before and after photos with a camera. Second. The other observation was that the fungal strands moved underground several meters from the new trees I inoculated and colonized had overwinter already establish the wild scrub oaks which prior to that Spring were also struggling and rangy looking with sparse foliage. The trees were loaded with large leaf foliage and also had truffle emergence on the outside of their driplines as well that same Spring. This debunks the so-called insistence that there is no reason to inoculate because the spores are just out there somewhere in the air and will find the tree roots. It's a farce for anyone to insist this. People can experiment on their own and test out their own applications, but take before and after photos. The entire experience can be satisfying and rewarding. Again, I will post a deeper explanation below in the references and explain what the list of ingredients do within the mycorrhizal mix from (PHC). 
Now take special note of one last scientific take on evidence and innovation of biomimetic application of devices created for mushroom and truffle farms in copying what Nature does with soil fungi through the effects of lightning and rainfall during thunderstorms. This article comes from Cornell University's Mushroom blog. And I have every confidence that some Professors out there who will consider the Cornell University researchers and employees at as anti-science Luddites for even considering this subject. Much the way Harvard Yard researchers and landscape maintenance employees were put down for using a microbial based compost teas for landscape care and dumping all synthetics in favour of this new holistic method and successfully since 2008. They've saved 1000s of dollars a year in the process.

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image: Cornell University

Here is an article from the Cornell University Mushroom blog where this phenomena is intelligently addressed and technological innovations designed to replicate electrical shock to damp soils on truffle farms which have proven to double the amount of truffles or mushrooms on those farms. For anyone who already farms for those underground truffles or above ground mushrooms, then this article and the information it contains will be of great interest for you. So here is a reprint of that Cornell Blog article published in 2013.


"The farmers of Japan say thunderstorms are good luck– they make the mushrooms grow.1 And mushrooms and thunderstorms are partners in folklore all over the world. The ancient god Soma may even have been a mushroom himself. In the book, Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, Gordon Wasson2 argues that Amanita muscaria, the classic red or yellow fly agaric, is the identity of the mysterious Soma, god of the RgVeda, a sacred collection of ancient Vedic Sanskrit hymns. These hymns are some of the world’s oldest religious texts, and from them we know Soma is “the child of the thunderstorm”. Is Soma really a mushroom? Are mushrooms the children of thunderstorms? Read on."

"Science, alas, has had little to say about mushrooms and thunderstorms. Until now. Recently, scientists in Japan have demonstrated a link between lightning and prolific mushroom fruiting. Although their interest in lightning and mushrooms is not driven by a religious quest, their research may inadvertently shed light on an ethnographic mystery."

"In Japan, mushrooms are particularly coveted for their delicious, nutritional, and medicinal qualities and demand is outstripping supply. But now scientists are finding ways to harness the power of electricity to increase mushroom production. Can you imagine farms where man-made lightning bolts strike the ground and induce large flushes of mushrooms? Well, this is what scientists in Japan are doing."

"Today, shiitake (Lentinula edodes), buna-shimeji (Hypsizygus marmoreus), eryngii (Pleurotus eryngii), and matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake) mushrooms are high value health foods in Japan.1,3 Matsutakes now sell for $439 U.S. dollars a pound. Before you think you might get rich by growing some, you must consider that these are ectomycorrhizal mushrooms that only grow symbiotically with their pine tree hosts, so the world’s harvest is entirely collected from the wild. Although harvest of these mushrooms in Japan peaked at 12,000 metric tons in 1941, harvest declined to 34 metric tons in 2005, not due to lack of demand but due to many threats to these red pine forests, including a pine wood nematode infestation that has been wreaking havoc in these ecosystems.3 People want more mushrooms. Let’s harness the power of lightning."

"The use of direct current (DC) electric fields on living tissue is not a new idea, but has a long and contentious history. Even back in 1985, when Robinson wrote a review of the topic, he was able to find 8 reliable reports involving plant cells and 4 on animal cells responding to DC fields. The reports ranged from growth of neurons towards the negative electrode to a “healing” response of wounds. Many of these observations seem to have been dismissed as “laboratory curiosities,” unlikely to have much real world application. In Japan, though, electrical stimulation has been used in the production of Shiitake, Buna-shimejo, and eryngii mushrooms for almost half a decade. And this technology doesn’t seem to be limited to mushrooms, as farmers are also using electromagnetic field technology in the production of tomato, lettuce, strawberry, and some ornamental plants."
Below is the schematic drawing of the SPLG is from Figure 2 in Islam and Ohga’s interesting 2012 paper.
"The results were yields of matsutake mushrooms just about double the yields in unzapped control plots. A monstrous flush came two weeks after the pulse and a second one nearly as large 3 weeks after. But it wasn’t just the quantity that increased, the quality, as measured by weight and size of individual matustake mushrooms also showed dramatic increases: Harvests from the zapped plots were, on average, almost 70% heavier then controls. If you thought mushrooms were magical all on their own, the combination of mushrooms and electricity might knock your socks off."

"Fungi are mysterious things and the mechanism by which electrical stimulation promotes mushroom fruiting is still not much understood. Perhaps the mushroom mycelium is responding to an apparent threat of death by redoubling its reproductive efforts? Many electrifying questions remain. Like: how does the zapping affect forest trees? Can the high fruiting rates be sustained without damaging the mushroom-tree symbiosis? When’s the next thunderstorm due in my neighborhood?"

"In the meantime, if you feel like experimenting (safely, of course) with mushrooms and electricity, you might want to check out this intriguing post about a New York City mycophile who grew his mushrooms amid Jazz music, artificial fog, and static electricity. Or, next time you go in the woods foraging for mushrooms, look for trees recently struck by lightning. Who knows what you will find. Maybe you will even have an encounter with the god Soma, child of the thunderstorm."
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An Assortment of Cornell University's
Reading References

1. S. Tsukamoto, H. Kudoh, S. Ohga, K. Yamamoto, and H. Akiyama, “Development of an automatic electrical stimulator for mushroom sawdust bottle,” in Proceeding of the 15th Pulsed Power Conference, pp. 1437–1440, Monterey, Calif, USA, June 2005 
2. R.G. Wasson. “Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality.” 1968. 
3. F. Islam and S. Ohga, “The response of fruit body formation on Tricholoma matsutake in situ condition by applying electric pulse stimulator,” ISRN Agronomy, vol. 2012, Article ID 462724, 6 pages, 2012. doi:10.5402/2012/462724 
4. K. R. Robinson, “The responses of cells to electrical fields: a review,” Journal of Cell Biology, vol. 101(6): 2023–2027, 1985. 
5. S. Tsukamoto, T. Maeda, M. Ikeda, and H. Akiyama, “Application of pulsed power to mushroom culturing,” in Proceedings of the 14th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference, pp. 1116–1119, Dallas, Texas, USA, June 2003. 
6. W. R. Adey, “Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields,” in Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 51:410-416. 1993. 
7. S. Ohga and S. Iida. “Effect of electric impulse on sporocarp formation of ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria laccata in Japanese red pine plantation.” J. Forest Res. 6: 37-41. 2001. 
(Source Cornell University)

Finally, the western scientific discipline of mycology (and other science related fields) has long disregarded this supposed relationship between lightning storms and truffle or mushroom formation. Either it has been chalked up to be nothing more than superstitious nonsense, in the view of modern man's agricultural obsession with industrial science, or else it is mistaking correlation for causation (accusation of it being anecdotal evidence), as they claim it's nothing more than the same rainstorm which created the lightning and thunder which also delivered the rains that woke up the mycelium from its slumber and provoke the mycorrhizal  fruiting bodies. Hopefully people will reject the ongoing scientific arrogance and go outdoors for themselves and see whether this phenomena is true or not. By all means experiment and have fun doing so. This post is a collection of articles and writings on the phenomena of Lightning of Thunderstorms triggering the emergence of Mushrooms and Truffles along with my own past experiences with this incredible phenomena when collecting these fungal fruits are meant to provide a condensed resource of information on the subject. As always with any of my posts, I'll periodically update as newer research appears in the science news feeds. It's my hope that everyone finds this compilation of subject materials invaluable, because you won't get this from the conventional Academic sources which are shackled to corporate business interests.


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Some Fun Reading References
Tom Volk: Lightning and the Truffle (Desert Truffles)
National Geographic: Lightning Makes Mushrooms Multiply
Modern Mechanix: "Tiny Thunderbolts Help Mushrooms Grow (Apr, 1923)"


Some Precautions on avoiding breathing the Truffle or Mushroom Spores
CDC: Respiratory Illness Associated with Inhalation of Mushroom Spores -- Wisconsin, 1994

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Some things to seriously consider about Plant Health Care Inc's  product PHC® Injectable for Trees & the list of ingredients within and what they do.

Plant Health Care Inc - PHC® Injectable for Trees

I've read several of the articles by internet Sciencey Guru types whose sole purpose in life on the Net appears to be debunking perceived or imaginary gardening and landscape myths about the uselessness of soil inoculation. I've already mentioned the "Spores are everywhere out in the Air" dogma by the Scientific Orthodoxy, but there is far more. Often I've seen criticism & demonizing of many of the other ingredients which are also present in many mixes. Here are a few and what they are for. Take the list of ingredients on the package of PHC® Injectable for Trees in the picture above.

PHC® Injectable for Trees - Ingredients List
The ectomycorrhizal lest contains a single species and the is Pisolithus tinctorius (1.78 Billion spores/Lb Pisolithus tinctorius). I have no idea how the count these spores. Next they list four VA Endomycorrhizal (VAM) Fungi (each @ 20,000 spores/Lb). Next they list six species of beneficial soil bacteria in the mix (each @ 4 billion cfu/Lb). Most of the criticism I've read about the ingredients list are these others which I'll talk about a few. First off, none of this is any type of fertilizer for the plant, which is often what I have rad from critics which in actuality exposes their true ignorance. So let's take a few of them.

SOIL/PLANT AMENDING INGREDIENTS
15.8% Humic acids (derived from Leonardite)
Anyone know what humic acids are which are derived from Leonardite ? For the purpose of this discussion, these humic acids are included within the mix not as a fertilizer as they are present to stimulate the plant's root growth and in particular those tiny root hair. In order for germination of the spore to take place, the root tip with end cap must have active growth and actually touch the spore for germination to be triggered. Next, what is Leonardite ? Leonardite comes from coal fields, especially brown Coal which is a lower grade coal and otherwise known as Lignite. These products were formed by the decomposition of organic plant material. Most all of it was created during the Earth's massive extinction even (irrespective how one wish to spin or fairytale that event) where ancient forests and other dense plant community ecosystems were scoured from the surface of the earth being thrown together and immediately buried with tonnes of sedimentary debris, much like the action of a volcanic lahar which bulldozes everything in it's path and buries it at the end of the flow with tonnes of mineral fill. Leonardite is the further degraded and refines part of Lignite (comes from the term "Lignin" which is what gives wood it's strength).

0.2% Formononetin
Doesn't sound like much, but the Flavonoid, Formononetin, stimulates the mycorrhizas to activity on their hosts. Only a trace is necessary for the desired effect of hormonal stimulation, much the way a mere trace of BisPhenol-A contamination has on a developing fetus with major endocrine disruption. Here is a link on it's importance to potato plants and mycorrhizal effectiveness. 
Influence of a flavonoid (formononetin) on mycorrhizal activity and potato crop productivity in the highlands of Peru
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MICROBIAL NUTRIENTS - 68.9%
11.2% Soluble seaweed extract (derived from Ascophyllum nodosum)
Seaweed or Kelp extract are another target of critics who say it does nothing as a fertilizer for plants, hence the criticism on compost teas which contain this product. Again for all those critics out there, this is never professionally meant as a plant fertilizer, but rather as the subtitle here suggests, it's a microbial stimulant. This is to stimulate the microbial community into action for the benefit of feeding and caring for their host plants. 
0.2% Yucca plant extract (derived from Yucca shidigera)
While you may find many who will describe this on the internet as a feed for plants, it's main purpose here while encouraging the microbial community, is also a great replacement surfactant to the petroleum and other synthetic surfactants presently used in Agricultural spraying of any kind (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc). Plant Health Care sells the Yuccah quarts and gallons. The recommendation is use in all spray and/or injection applications as a wetting agent and soil penetrant (allows mycorrhizal spores to also move easier within soil pores). Keep in mind that this product I'm describing above is actually an injectable to be used in an actual injection machine. Try mixing any fungal spores with water and see what happens. They float on the surface. This is why such products as Monsanto's Roundup is loaded with synthetic surfactants to allow the Glyphosate to completely emulsify within the water or it would float on the surface. The surfactants used in Roundup however are dangerous to aquatic environments, so the Yuccah version is meant as an ecological replacement. So the next time you read about negativity of soil inoculents being worthless and the other ingredients are having no effect, understand that these self-promoting intellects have probably never done their thorough homework on them despite what they spew in type.
PHC Yuccah Wetting Agent & Soil Penetrant  
Periodically come back and look for updates