We know a lot about the potential functions of mycorrhizas, but whether or not these are realized in the field where plants simultaneously experience a range of biotic interactions and fluctuating abiotic conditions is more or less unknown. In this Viewpoint, we present findings from a literature survey of papers on mycorrhizal function published in New Phytologist during the past 30 years. This survey showed that most functional studies are still conducted under controlled conditions, target mostly arbuscular and ectomycorrhizas, and focus on nutrient and carbon dynamics of the symbiosis. We also share discussions from a workshop, ‘In situ mycorrhizal function: how do we get relevant data from a messy world?’, held at the 9th International Conference on Mycorrhiza (ICOM9) in August 2017. In this workshop, we examined possibilities and limitations of old and new techniques for field research, and participants expressed the need to learn more about fungal traits and how they may relate to function. We argue that moving mycorrhizal experiments into the field will allow us not only to quantify realized functions, but also to revisit old paradigms and possibly discover new functions.
- arbuscular mycorrhizas
- mycorrhizal function