Dr Angela Hodge

Reader in Biology

York University

Underground Movers and Shakers:Communications via Belowground Fungal Networks

The majority of land plants form close associations in their roots with certain types of soil fungi. These associations are called ‘mycorrhiza’ (literally meaning ‘fungus-root’) symbiosis and both the plant and the fungal partner benefit from this close association. The fungus obtains a supply of carbon from the plant whereas the fungus can confer a number of benefits to the plant including enhanced nutrient and water uptake. In addition to living within the root, the fungi also extend their hyphal strands outside of the root into the soil environment. These external hyphae help explore the soil environment for resources but they can also connect different plants in a community together via their long, filamentous hyphal networks and it has been proposed that resources can be shared among different plants plugged into this fungal network. This talk will discuss the role of mycorrhizas in soil systems and the evidence for nutrient movement along these fungal networks. In addition, more recent evidence that suggests these underground fungal networks may act as an early warning system among members of the connected plant community that an attack by insect pests may be imminent will also be discussed and the role of these fungi in future sustainable agriculture systems considered.

Angela obtained her first degree in Soil Science and Microbiology (joint Hons) and her PhD from the University of Aberdeen. She then worked as a Higher Scientific Officer at The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen (now the James Hutton) before arriving in York for a postdoctoral position. This was followed by a The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s Sir David Phillips Fellowship, a Lectureship, Senior Lectureship and now Reader in the Department of Biology at the University of York. Her work over her career has focused upon plant-soil-microbial interactions in particular nutrient cycling, root responses and mycorrhizal associations all within the context of agriculture sustainability.