With Halloween just right around the corner, now is the time for ‘trick or treat’ and pumpkins- giant pumpkins! If you have visited any of the giant pumpkin weigh off sites in Northern California, like the HaIf Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, you most likely saw one of the bright orange behemoths that can weigh as much as a Toyota Prius. If you are like one of the many people seeing these giants for the first time, you are probably wondering: “What kind of steroids do they use to grow something this huge?”. On the contrary, in fact most giant pumpkins are grown organically, with the help of a lot of compost, organic fish fertilizer and mycorrhizal fungi.
Reforestation Technologies International (RTI) is the leading producer of mycorrhizal inoculants. Not only has RTI been helping giant pumpkin growers achieve world records, but they also have been helping California farmers fight the record breaking drought. Mycorrhizal fungi can significantly reduce water uptake by their host plants, and can also relieve drought stress for plants grown under dry conditions where irrigation can be limited.
Since 2006, every consecutive world record giant pumpkin plant has been inoculated with a beneficial soil microbe produced by RTI in Gilroy, CA. This naturally occurring organism attaches to the roots of most plants, then grows a network of tiny microscopic straw-like filaments outward into the soil where it then connects to other beneficial soil bacteria and fungi. These beneficial fungi help to break down organic matter and release mineral nutrients required by plants for growth. Forming a symbiotic association that is so efficient and allows giant pumpkin growers to continually break world records for the past nine consecutive years. This year's monster giant pumpkin from Rhode Island belongs to Ron Wallace, weighing in at 2,230.5 lbs. “I really feel that giant pumpkin growers are shaping how the world grows produce,” Wallace told the Associated Press. “We are doing a lot for farming.”
We can look at these giant pumpkin growers and learn from their growing methods. They have managed to successfully grow giant pumpkins during a record drought with the help of a tiny organism. They have studied and researched many ways to increase the weight of their pumpkins while simultaneously increase their yield. By paying close attention to their methods, and with the use of mycorrhizae we can begin to change the direction of the entire farming community.