If you've read Chapter 16, you know how important fungi are, especially mycorrhizal fungi that team up with your plants to improve their uptake of water and nutrients. Most fungi are essential. Without them, the planet would have long ago been buried in undecomposed waste. Still some fungi, such as Phytophthora root rot and oak root fungus, attack living plants, causing decline and even death. Some fungi are really nasty and can be very difficult or (I hate to have to tell you) impossible to control.
Most fungus attacks result from poor growing conditions. Change the growing conditions, and in many cases you might eliminate the problem. For example, overwatering gives a big thumbs-up to wicked little fungi, such as phytophthora root rot, oak root fungus, pythium, and others. The fungi are always present in the soil, waiting for conditions favorable to their development. Change your habits, give the plants what they need, and the fungi will disappear like the Wicked Witch of the West.
One promising new approach for controlling soil-borne fungal diseases involves applying bacterial inoculants to the soil. These inoculants take up space that otherwise would be occupied by fungi. A healthy soil food web is no place that harmful fungi want to hang out.
Fungi are proving to be among the most useful living things. For a fascinating look, check out Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (Ten Speed Press) by visionary mycologist Paul Stamets.
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