Mycorrhiza for human welfare – past, present and future
There is a growing awareness of the beneficial roles played by mycorrhizal symbioses in human nutrition and welfare and of the economic importance of ecosystem services they provide in agriculture, forestry and society. Mycorrhizal symbioses are strategically important as they enhance primary productivity and provide fundamental services by regulating ecosystem processes, such as soil formation, quality and health, bioremediation, nutrient cycling, soil carbon sequestration, pest control, plant nutrient acquisition and health. In addition, several mycorrhizal food, medicinal and aromatic plant species show increased content in phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, anthocyanins and carotenoids, that play a fundamental role in promoting human health. Yet mycorrhizal symbioses are often overlooked when it comes to decision-making on agriculture and forestry management practices, which should aim at maintaining and enhancing the mycorrhizal potential of soils. In the Workshop, fundamental studies on the genetic, ecological and functional traits of host plants and fungal symbionts will be discussed in order to answer the question as to whether mycorrhizal symbioses may represent suitable tools for improving crop productivity and environmental quality, reducing the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and producing safe and healthy food to feed the megacities in the years to come.