Mycorrhizal fungi usually transfer nitrogen and phosphorus to plants, and receive carbohydrates. However, the orchid mycorrhizal symbiosis is unique because the mycorrhizal fungi transfer carbon to the plant, at least during early developmental stages. All orchids are dependent on fungi for seed germination and form mycorrhizae with basidiomycete fungi. These mycorrhizal fungal species are primarily in two orders, Cantherellales and Sebacinales, in Agaricomycetes (Basidiomycota). Studying orchid mycorrhizal fungi will reveal fundamental insights into microbial mutualisms and the role of fungi in carbon and nitrogen cycling. In addition, the initial mycotrophic life stage of orchids is an ecologically important topic given the diversity of orchids.
Proposer’s Name: J. Chris Pires, University of Missouri-Columbia