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How Microplastics Affect the Relationship Between Plants and Fungi

Recent research by Oussama Bouaicha, Mauro Maver, Tanja Mimmo, Stefano Cesco and Luigimaria Borruso published on Science Direct, looked at what implications could the increasing and overwhelming presence of microplastics in our environment could have on Funga and how it interacts with its organic neighbors. Here are our key takeaways.

What Are Microplastics?

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that can be found in soil and water. These particles can affect various organisms, including fungi, which live in the soil around plant roots (the rhizosphere).

The Study

Researchers looked at how polyethylene microspheres (a type of microplastic) influence the interaction between two types of fungi and tomato plants. The fungi studied were:

  • Fusarium solani: A harmful fungus that causes diseases in plants.

  • Trichoderma viride: A beneficial fungus that helps plants grow and protects them from harmful fungi.

The Experiment

  • Concentrations Used: Two levels of polyethylene microspheres were tested: 100 mg/L and 1000 mg/L.

  • Measured Effects: The study focused on how these microplastics affected fungal growth, reproduction, and interactions with tomato plants.


  1. Fungal Growth and Reproduction:

  • Microplastics increased the production of fungal spores but reduced their ability to germinate (grow) and spread.

  • This effect was seen in both the harmful fungus (Fusarium solani) and the beneficial fungus (Trichoderma viride).

  1. Impact on Tomato Plants:

  • Harmful Fungus (Fusarium solani): When microplastics were present, this fungus became more aggressive, harming tomato plant roots more severely.

  • Beneficial Fungus (Trichoderma viride): Microplastics enhanced the positive effects of this fungus, helping tomato roots grow better.

  1. Combined Fungal Interaction:

  • When both fungi were present, the beneficial fungus (Trichoderma viride) helped counteract the harmful effects of Fusarium solani.

  • Microplastics further boosted the beneficial effects of Trichoderma viride, promoting healthier plant growth even in the presence of the harmful fungus.


Microplastics can significantly alter the interactions between fungi and plants in the soil. They can make harmful fungi more aggressive, damaging plants, but can also enhance the beneficial effects of helpful fungi, promoting plant growth. This dual effect highlights the complex role microplastics play in agricultural environments and their potential impact on crop productivity.


Understanding these interactions is crucial for developing sustainable agricultural practices. Managing the presence of microplastics in soil could help maintain healthy plant-fungi relationships, ensuring better crop yields and protecting plant health.

[Image credits: Dall-e]


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