Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
July 26, 2004
Book examines ‘hidden life’ of plants
Plant scientists and home gardeners alike will get a close-up look at a mostly hidden aspect of plant life in a new book by University of Guelph researchers.
Mycorrhizas: Anatomy and Cell Biology, published this month by NRC Research Press, uses text and images to examine the main kinds of symbiotic partnerships between plants and fungi that sustain nearly all plant species. The book caps a lifetime of research for botanist Larry Peterson, a University Professor Emeritus. It was co-authored by Lewis Melville, Peterson’s longtime research associate, and Hugues Massicotte, a U of G graduate and now a professor at the University of Northern British Columbia.
“I’m really pleased we did this as a group. I think this is one of the best things I’ve done,” said Peterson, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada who has published more than 200 papers on root-fungal interactions. He is the editor of the Canadian Journal of Botany.
Nearly every plant on earth needs to partner up with fungi for optimum absorption of nutrients, disease resistance, drought tolerance and protection against some toxic metals. In turn, the plant provides a ready carbon source for the fungi. Understanding this relationship is critical for researchers trying to solve problems in agriculture, forestry and environmental restoration.
Peterson’s lab has the most comprehensive collection of photographs of mycorrhizas worldwide. The new book includes some 300 images taken through light and electron microscopes. “We are the only group in the world that’s worked on all categories of mycorrhizas from a structural point of view,” he said.
“Our lab is known for excellence in microscopy,” added Melville. As a microscopy and digital imaging expert, he prepared all of the book’s images, most of which were already collected in the lab’s database over the past quarter-century. The lab routinely receives requests for information and images from molecular biologists to ecologists. Three years ago, they decided to publish a reference book.
Peterson said the book will appeal to a range of plant science researchers as well as home gardeners who are interested in such organic practices such as no-till and no-pesticide gardening practices that preserve soil organisms.