Soil is so common that we can easily forget how precious it is.
Example of a mycofiltered manure holding pond
potential—as a epigenetic response—to pre-select new strains more adaptive to this oil-saturated substrate.
|CONTAMINANTS IN BUNKER C OIL|
C23 Tricyclic Terpane (T4)
C24 Tricyclic Terpane (T5)
C25 Tricyclic Terpane (T6)
C24 Tetracyclic Terpane (T6a)
C26 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T6b)
C26 Tricyclic Terpane-22R (T6c)
C28 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T7)
C28 Tricyclic Terpane-22R (T8)
C29 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T9)
C29 Tricyclic Terpane-22R (T10)
C30 Tricyclic Terpane-22S (T11b)
C30 Tricyclic Terpane-22R
17a/b,21b/a 28,30-Bisnorhopane (T14a)
C30 Tricyclic Terpane-22R
17a/b,21b/a 28,30-Bisnorhopane (T14a)
From a piece of tissue the size of one tenth of your little fingernail, what we call a clone, cells can be grown exponentially into millions of pounds of mushrooms in as little as several months. More than 10% of the growing medium or "substrate" (straw, sawdust, compost, most agricultural and forest debris) can be converted into a protein- and vitamin-rich food. Not only are these mushrooms nutritious, they have demonstrated abilities in enhancing the human immune system, and they produce a slew of natural antibiotics. Yet it is the residual mycelium in that substrate that holds the greatest potential for ecological rehabilitation.
Mycelia can serve as unparalleled biological filters. When I first moved to my property, I installed an outdoor mushroom bed in a gulch leading to a saltwater beach where clams and oysters were being commercially cultivated. An inspection showed that the outflow of water from my property was jeopardizing the quality of my neighbor's shellfish with the bacteria count close to the legal limit. The following year, after the mushroom beds were colonized with mycelium, the coliform count had decreased to nearly undetectable levels. This led to the term I have coined "mycofiltration", the use of fungal mats as biological filters.
Mycelium produces extracellular enzymes and acids that break down recalcitrant molecules such as lignin and cellulose, the two primary components of woody plants. Lignin peroxidases dismantle the long chains of hydrogen and carbon, converting wood into simpler forms, on the path to decomposition. By circumstance, these same enzymes are superb at breaking apart hydrocarbons, the base structure common to oils, petroleum products, pesticides, PCBs, and many other pollutants.
For the past four years I have been working with Battelle Laboratories, a non-profit foundation, whose mission is to use science to improve environmental health. Battelle is a major player in the bioremediation industry, and widely used by the United States and other governments in finding solutions to toxic wastes. The marine science laboratory of Battelle, Sequim, Washington became interested, as their mandate is to improve the health of the marine ecosystem. Under the stewardship of Dr. Jack Word, we began a series of experiments employing the strains from my mushroom gene library, many of which were secured through collecting specimens while hiking in the old growth forests of the Olympic and Cascade mountains. We now have applied for a patent utilizing mycelial mats for bioremediation, a process we have termed "mycoremediation".
After several years, and redundant experiments to prove to naysayers that our data was valid, we have made some astonishing discoveries. The first significant study showed that a strain of Oyster mushrooms could break down heavy oil. A trial project at a vehicle storage center controlled by the Washington State Dept. of Transportation (WSDOT) enlisted the techniques from several, competing bioremediation groups. The soil was blackened with oil and reeked of aromatic hydrocarbons. We inoculated one berm of soil approximately 8 feet x 30 feet x 3 feet high with mushroom spawn while other technicians employed a variety of methods, ranging from bacteria to chemical agents. After 4 weeks, the tarps were pulled back from each test pile. The first piles employing the other techniques were unremarkable. Then the tarp was pulled from our pile, and gasps of astonishment and laughter welled up from the observers. The hydrocarbon-laden pile was bursting with mushrooms! Oyster mushrooms up to 12 inches in diameter had formed across the pile. Analyses showed that more than 95% of many of the PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) were destroyed, reduced to non-toxic components, and the mushrooms were also free of any petroleum products.
After 8 weeks, the mushrooms had rotted away, and then came another startling revelation. As the mushrooms rotted, flies were attracted. (Sciarid, Phorid and other "fungus gnats" commonly seek out mushrooms, engorged themselves with spores, and spread the spores to other habitats). The flies became a magnet for other insects, which in turn brought in birds. Apparently the birds brought in seeds. Soon ours was an oasis, the only pile teeming with life! We think we have found what is called a "keystone" organism, one that facilitates, cascade of other biological processes that contribute to habitat remediation. Critics, who were in favor of using plants (as in "phytoremediation") and/or bacteria, reluctantly became de facto advocates of our process since the mushrooms opened the door for this natural sequencing.
In this series of experiments, our group made two other significant discoveries. One involved a mushroom from the old growth forest that produced an army of crystalline entities advancing in front of the growing mycelium, disintegrating when they encountered E. coli, sending a chemical signal back to the mother mycelium that, in turn, generated what appears to be a customized macro-crystal which attracted the motile bacteria by the thousands, summarily stunning them. The advancing mycelium then consumed the E. coli, effectively eliminating them from the environment. The other discovery, which I am not fully privy to, involves the use of one of my strains in the destruction of biological and chemical warfare agents. The research is currently classified by the Defense department as one mushroom species has been found to break down VX, the potent nerve gas agent Saddam Hussein was accused of loading into warheads of missiles during the Gulf War. This discovery is significant, as VX is very difficult to destroy. Our fungus did so in a surprising manner.
We believe that buffer zones around streams work primarily because of the mycelium resident in the first few inches of soil. Buffers with multi-canopied trees and shrubs combined with grasses, and the debris fall-out they provide, afford a mycologically rich zone, filtering out run-off from adjacent farms, highways and suburban zones. The mycologically rich riparian zones are cooler, attract insects which lay larvae (grub for fish), and then foster bird-life. Once the riparian zones achieve a plateau of complexity, they become self-sustaining. Amazingly, I have not heard of a single researcher ever mention the primary role fungi play in riparian buffers, let alone the purposeful introduction of mycelial colonies to protect watersheds. This method is ingeniously simple in its design and yet seemingly out of grasp of politicians. The prejudice against mushrooms is a form of biological racism—mushrooms are just not taken seriously.
Mycofiltration is a natural fit to John Todd's "Living Machine®" use of estuary ecosystems to break down toxic wastes. The marriage of upland use of mushroom mycelium with estuary environments could solve—in the short term—some of the greatest challenges threatening our ecosystem, and truly give meaning to the word "sustainability". We are currently moving towards unifying these two friendly technologies in the creation of a new paradigm for the 21st century. However, we need help.
What our team has discovered given our elementary research is that the fungal genome has far greater potential in treating a wide variety of environmental and health concerns than we could have conceived. Although we have looked at just a few of the mushroom species resident in the Old Growth, clearly these ancestral strains of mushrooms have survived millennia due to their inherent ability to adapt. These adaptive mechanisms are the very foundation of ecological stability and vitality in an increasingly more rapidly changing environment. Mushrooms are "smart" fungi. These discoveries coming to me are perhaps no accident. Your reading this article is perhaps no accident. Regardless, let's take advantage of a unique coincidence to empower individuals, communities and vast ecologies by harnessing the power of mushroom mycelium.
What can you do? Delineate your garbage into categories. Not only compost all organic debris, but segregate the refuse into piles appropriate for a variety of desired mushroom species. Inoculate cardboard and paper products, coffee grounds, and wood debris with mushroom spawn. Teach children about the role of fungi, especially mushrooms, in the forests and their critical role in building soils. Encourage mushrooms to grow in your yards by mulching around plants. Take advantage of catastrophia—natural disasters are perfect opportunities for community-action recycling projects. We should learn from our elders. Native peoples worldwide have viewed fungi as spiritual allies. They are not only the guardians of the forest. They are the guardians of our future.
Fungi Perfecti has the strains, the knowledge and the facility for projecting mycelium en masse. We are very familiar with acclimating mycelium to outdoor environments. Those interested in applying these technologies are invited to contract with us for our services. Serious inquiries only, please.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals offers much food for thought on the subject of environmental contamination.
The PBS documentary "Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report" is a detailed and chilling account of the chemical industry's efforts to conceal the harmful effects of vinyl chloride, benzene and other toxic chemicals on their own employees, the greater public and the environment.