Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

By Dr. Markho Rafael

Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets has been the perpetual best-seller on popular mycology since published in 2005. It's an indispensible reference book for anybody working the land, especially foresters, farmers and environmental cleanup contractors. It's also a great book for anyone interested in growing their own food mushrooms.

Mycelium Running is filled to the brim with useful tips on things such as using mushrooms to improve soils and boost productivity in forestry and farming (gardening) with decreased use of expensive fertilizers and pesticides; filtering waste-water (mycofiltration); and clean up toxic waste from the land (mycoremediation).

For example, an easy do-it-yourself method of creating a mycofiltration bed for filtering waste water is delineated in detail. Recommended materials are listed along with suggested mushroom species to use and the ideal dimensions of the bed. In Stamets' examples, these mycofiltration beds are used to effectively filter and neutralize farm runoff but they could also be used to filter industrial waste water.

Added perks when using mycofiltration is that the beds also yield crops of scrumptious food mushrooms, and every 2-3 years, as the bedding material needs to be replaced, the old material can be spread on the farm fields as a rich fertilizer.

Another piece of useful information for farmers and gardeners found in Mycelium Running concerns the no-till farming method as opposed to the conventional method of plowing the fields after harvest. No-till farming helps promote saprophytic fungi (decomposing fungi), which break down organic material at a pace better suited to plant-life than the rapid and heat producing breakdown by anaerobic bacteria, which are the primary decomposers when stubble is plowed under. The mycelium of saprophytic fungi also binds the soil to prevent erosion and loss of valuable nutrients.

In addition to helping decompose and recycle organic matter, saprophytic fungi can also help forestry by protecting its tree residents from parasitic fungi (blights), which may kill thousands of trees if left unchecked. Seeding saprophytic fungi in a productive forest may help out-compete parasitic fungi, thus functioning as natural fungicides; good fungi vs. bad fungi.

Mycorrhizal fungi likewise can be seeded to support tree growth, or these beneficial fungi may simply be encouraged to grow naturally through smarter and more enlightened forest management.

Mycorrhizal fungi help extend the reach of tree roots to better absorb nutrients and water, thus making the trees healthier and more drought resistant. Mycorrhizal fungi also manufacture and provide trees with natural antibiotics against many pathogens, especially parasitic fungi.

Mushroom mycelium can also be utilized to clean up toxic waste sites through a method known as mycoremediation. The term was invented by the author of Mycelium Running, Paul Stamets, but was in common use before the publication of this book.

Petrochemicals and biological warfare agents can be effectively broken down by mushroom mycelium, as can dioxin and toxic industrial waste. Even toxic levels of chlorine, which is used as the universal biocide, can be neutralized by some species of mushrooms. Bacterial contaminants like Staphylococcus sp. and E. coli can be killed, and heavy metals can be absorbed by mushrooms to then be removed from a site.

Mycoremediation is extremely economical, at less than 5% the cost of some conventional methods for cleaning up toxic waste.

The information listed above is still only the first half of this tome. The second half is filled with information on growing mushroom mycelium, which can then be used for the above-mentioned purposes, or for growing our own medicinal or edible mushrooms. And who doesn't love gourmet mushrooms? In other words, this is not only a book for farmers, foresters, ecologists and mycologists. This is a valuable reference book for every home and household. - 29857

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