Fruit trees could reach maturity up to 40% more quickly with the help of certain fungi and bacteria, according to scientists from Mexico's Research and Advanced Studies Center (Cinvestav) in Irapuato, Guanajuato.
The research published in Mexican journal Investigación y Desarrollo seeks to improve the success of reforestation techniques and improve plant survival rates.
Led by Dr. Victor Olalde Portugal, the Cinvestav team uncovered the importance of microorganisms, particularly mycorrhizae, in supporting tree life, improving adaptability during transplantation and sustaining groundwater.
"We found that in a three year period we can develop copies of oak, pine, mesquite and huisache trees of two to three meters in height. This process normally takes between six and seven years," Olalde Portugal said.
"Applied to trees that grow citrus, apples, guava and lemons, fruit can be produced within three to four years. This normally takes six."
The most beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizae, were found immediately around the tree's roots or rhizosphere. Among these good bacteria was a group classified as "growth promoters," which support development and protect the plant against pathogenic attacks. They also supported the production of phytohormones, which aid the supply of nutrients and water.
When mycorrhizal fungi came in contact with the plant's roots, they began biochemical communication that allowed trees to adapt during transplantation without a problem. The microorganism was also responsible for deeper exploration into the soil and brought useful elements to the plant such as phosphorus.
Plants that contained mycorrhizae also achieved more efficient photosynthesis and needed less water to function, Olalde Portugal said.
Not all bacteria provided the same benefits, however. Distinct strands were selected to provide benefits to the different trees in the study.