How did fungi help create life as we know it?

Prof Katie Field

Plants wouldn’t have made it out of the water 450 million years ago if not for their collaboration with fungi. They are an ancient and extraordinary kingdom that exists everywhere. But if fungi are so essential, why are they so easy to miss?

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Today, when we look at plants, there is a high probability we are also looking at fungi. More than 80% of land plants partner with fungi to help those plants extract nutrients from the ground. In fact, plants wouldn’t have made it out of the water 450 million years ago if not for their collaboration with these seemingly brainless organisms. They are an ancient and extraordinary kingdom that exists everywhere, yet you don’t often see them when you look outside. 

But if fungi are so essential, why are they so easy to miss? We use them for cooking food and to make medicine, they can even survive in space, induce visions - manipulating the way humans think, feel, and behave. And yet much of their existence over the past billion years remains a mystery.

Katie Field, Professor of Plant-Soil Processes at Sheffield University will join us in The Garden to tell us about this fascinating world, and reveal how the Earth’s oldest kingdom helps us understand our planet and life itself.

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Talk outline

Duration

50 minutes

Collection

The Secret Life of Plants

About the Fellow

Prof Katie Field

Katie is a professor of Plant-Soil Processes. Her research seeks to improve sustainability in agriculture through the potential exploitation of soil microorganisms.

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The Secret Life of Plants Collection

Plants have long been cast as the backdrop to the brassier, noisier human and animal world. But new research is revealing another side of our botanical friends, and this time it's a starring role. What have they been up to while we were looking elsewhere?

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