DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
The Ascomycete Scutellinia umbrorum (orange discs), growing in a field of winter barley, Norfolk, UK, November 2011. S. umbrorum has a widespread distribution in NW Europe and SW South America. Saprophytes are organisms that live on dead organic matter. Many saprophytic fungi live on decaying wood, and small Ascomycetes, including Scutellinia species, are also typical colonisers of fire-sites.On open farmland, sources of decaying organic matter are normally sparse. The field in which this picture was taken had carried a crop of sugar beet in the previous exceptionally hard winter. The crop was rendered valueless by exposure to frost temperatures down to -15C, and was ploughed in. This resulted in several tonnes of organic matter per acre being incorporated into the soil as fragments of damaged beets. Scutellinia umbrorum found a rich nutrient source.
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