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Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

     

by Dr. Markho Rafael


Paul Stamets' Mycelium Running is a must have reference book for anyone working the land in any form, whether it be farming, forest management or environmental cleanup. But also for people who, like me, enjoy growing things, especially delectable edibles.

The book is filled to the brim with valuable information on how to improve soils for farming, gardening and forestry; create simple, low-cost biofilters for waste water (mycofiltration); and clean up toxic waste (mycoremediation).

As an example, a method for building a mycofiltration bed to filter waste water is described in exacting detail. Dimensions, depth, layers and recommended materials and mushrooms are listed. This mycofiltration is useful, among other things, for filtering manure enriched farm runoff.

An added benefit of using mycofiltration beds on farms include the production of delicious food mushrooms, which sprout out of these beds. And every 2-3 years, the material in the bed can be dug out and used as a rich fertilizer on the fields of the farm.

Also useful for farmers is the information on no-till farming, which involves a method of leaving the stubble on the field until the next crops is planted. This encourages the development of saprophytic fungi, which break down old plant matter at a pace that's highly beneficial for new plant life. In contrast, the conventional method of plowing down the stubble after harvest promotes anaerobic bacteria, which decompose organic substrate too rapidly. The saprophytic fungi also help prevent soil erosion and leaching of valuable nutrients and top soil.

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.

The symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi can also be seeded in forests to promote healthy trees. Or they can be protected and naturally promoted through wise and informed forest management.

Most plants benefit from partnerships with mycorrhizal fungi, especially trees, which become much more drought resistant as well as disease resistant when they partner with a mycorrhizal mushroom species.

Another cutting edge technology in Mycelium Running is Mycoremediation, the neutralization of toxins through the use of mushroom mycelium. The term Mycoremediation was coined by Paul Stamets, author of Mycelium Running, but was already in common use among mycologists before publication.

Synthetic toxic compounds including petrochemicals, dioxins, neurotoxins, toxic industrial waste and much more can be effectively broken down by fungi into harmless compounds. Bacterial contaminants such E. coli can be killed by anti-bacterial compounds excreted by the fungi. And toxic levels of heavy metals may be absorbed and concentrated by mushrooms, which can then be harvested and safely deposed.

Mycoremediation has also been shown to be the most economical method of cleaning up toxic waste sites, up to 95% cheaper than some common conventional methods.

All that is just in the first half of this 300-page book; the second half is an instruction manual on growing your own mushrooms and mycelia, which is something that may be of interest to forest managers for mycoforestry, environmentalists for mycoremediation, farmers for increasing soil productivity, and the rest of us for growing our own gourmet mushrooms for food and medicine. In other words, this is a book for anyone and everyone.

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Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

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