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Book Review: Mycorrhizal Planet

Mycorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil Fertility

By Michael Phillips

Published by Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017

Soil Biology is Nature’s healthcare system. One of man’s greatest mistakes was believing the natural world needed us to create bounty or to heal itself. Michael Phillips shows us that if we just get out of the way and let nature do her thing we can solve many of the problems we face today from climate change to crop production.

Phillips writes, “Virtue lies in doing less so as not to screw things up….”  And his practical approach and casual style of writing mixed with humor lightens the heavy science and makes the information easy to digest.

Beginning with the basics, Phillips zooms way in, starting with relevant fungal concepts, plant physiology, and phyto chemical progression. From there he zooms outward to encouraging proper fungal growth in the soil and the nuance of inoculants. Finally, he presents a wide-angle, hopeful view of what our world would look like with “fluent carbon pathways” and carbon flow. It is said that if we adopted practices like no till, organic crop production in major agriculture, then we could bring atmospheric carbon levels to pre-industrial levels within five years through carbon sequestration. That’s just agriculture. What if all land stewards worked with this goal in mind? Can we really save and maintain life as we know it by putting Soil First? Phillips lays out the steps we need to take to achieve this vision by getting out of the way and letting nature do her thing.

Full of colorful pictures, helpful tables and diagrams and subtopics within chapters, the information in this book is easy to access. Phillips makes it even easier by referencing with page numbers where to find further information within the book, for those who like to glean or have a specific fungal topic in mind.

To me soil science is the deep end of the pool and I enjoy jumping in and trying to touch bottom (knowing I never will). The thrill is finding that the more you learn, the deeper you go, and Mycorrhizal Planet is a big gulp of air connecting the dots that allowed me to dive deeper than ever before. So much more than just science, Mycorrhizal Planet provides understanding to put into practice and make us better stewards of the land.

About the Reviewer

Trevor Smith is the owner of Land Escapes, a full service ecological landscaping company in the Boston area that specializes in Garden Design, Eco-Rain Recovery, Water Features, and Living Wall Installations. Trevor is also the past-President of the Ecological Landscape Alliance. You can reach Trevor through his website:


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