What is saprophytic nutrition

Fungi are multicellular organisms whose basic body structure is usually designed as a thread-like network (= mycelium) and can be many meters long. They are a widespread group, rich in species and shape, and reproduce by spores. Your vegetative body consists either of elliptical single cells, the yeast (yeast fungi), or of elongated, thread-like arranged cell associations, which are called fungal threads or hyphae. Both forms of growth can occur in one species.

Fungi are predominantly aerobic and heterotrophic. With regard to their diet, three groups can be distinguished:

1.Saprophytic fungi: they feed on dead organic matter and break down proteins, cellulose, other carbohydrates and lignin.
2.Parasitic fungi: they attack living plants and animals and can cause great damage.
3.Mycorrhizal fungi: they live symbiotic with tree roots.

The most important groups of soil-dwelling fungi include slime molds (relatively simply organized, amoeba-like species), molds (e.g. the brush mold Penicillium, which produces the bacteria-killing penicillin) and mushrooms.

Fungi penetrate with their hyphae - similar to plant roots with their root hairs - into new substrates and thus repeatedly open up new sources of nutrients. They prefer a neutral to acidic environment and are significantly involved in the breakdown of organic matter and humification processes in the soil (see decomposition).

Compared to bacteria, the number of fungi in the soil is around 50 to 500 times less, but their biomass exceeds that of bacteria many times over and can amount to up to 1000g per m² of soil cut-out (GISI et al. 1997, p. 74). One liter of soil can contain up to 300 m of mycelium (GISI et al. 1997, p. 58).

Additional Information:


BLUME, H.-P. (Ed.) (1992): Handbuch des Bodenenschutz. Landsberg / Lech: ecomed.
BRAUNS, A. (1968): Practical Soil Biology. Stuttgart: G. Fischer.
GISI, U. / SCHENKER, R. / SCHULIN, R. / STADELMANN, F.X./ STICHER, H. (1997): Soil Ecology - 2nd Edition - Stuttgart; New York: Thieme.
HINTERMAIER-ERHARD, G. / ZECH, W. (1997): Dictionary of soil science. Stuttgart: Enke.
WILD, A. (1995): Environmentally oriented soil science. Heidelberg; Berlin; Oxford: spectrum.