Mycoagriculture

Mycoagriculture, also known as mycofarming is the use fungi to complete the process of sustainable agriculture (permaculture). This will be achieved with the utilization of saprophitic and mycorrhizal fungi and will revolutionize the agricultural industry in the following ways:

-remediation of agricultural wastes
-CO2 production
-spent substrate as fodder for livestock
-control of pests/disease
-increased yields
-increased water absorption
-reduction in fertilizer usage
-reduction in fecal coliforms, heavy metal contamination (mycofiltration)
-as a sustainable food source


Following the lead of people like Bill Mollison, Masanobu Fukuoka, Wes Jackson, and Paul Stamets, we here at Amateur Mycology feel that we must all help lead the Agricultural Revolution into fruition. Below are a few quick videos that should give you an overview on two things. First off, dirt is what feeds us. It is how we survive. Without it, life simply could not exist. Unfortunately for us, our soils are in major trouble. In the past 1000 years man has found faster and faster ways to grow more and more food. Through this we discovered amazing new technologies that could feed larger and larger groups of people, which is in part what brought us into the Industrial Age. This eventually lead to what we now call ‘monocropping’; the farming practice in which you grow almost genetically identical plants so as to achieve a very standardized product in a specific length of time. However, since all of these plants have the same genetics, pests are able to easily overcome an entire crop. This drop in genetic diversity is a large part of why many farmers must use very large quantities of pesticides and fungicides. It also means the use of large quantities of inorganic fertilizer salts. These all leach into the rivers and eventually the oceans. This also leads to soil degradation, and then quickly humans and the other life on this planet has major problems. Sustainable, organic agriculture is key to our survival. If you haven’t seen it yet, ‘Dirt! The Movie’ is a recent documentary that goes more in depth into these subjects and is an absolutely inspiring watch. (and right now it is available for instant watch on Netflix!) The other two videos explain just one aspect in which fungi can help make sustainable agriculture even more attainable, mycorrhizal fungi. They have been living in association with their photosynthetic partners for millions of years, and in fact, it was plants that followed fungi onto land, not the other way around. This is because fungi are more like animals than plants. They digest living or dead organic material. But what makes fungi really interesting is that they digest outside of their body. They excrete digestive juices onto the environment that break down organic material into absorptive energy. These ‘digestive juices’ have many, many interesting properties. They are even able to excrete oxalic acids that can crumble solid rock, beginning the process needed to turn rock into soil. As plants followed fungi onto land, they would live and die, creating even more nutrients for the fungi. That relationship became so strong that fungi evolved to the point where they were able to inject their cells into the roots of a plant without killing it’s host. This created a pathway between the fungi and the plant so that they could ‘trade’ eachother for nutrients the other was unable to extract. This symbiotic relationship is beneficial to both the plant, which receives a larger surface area to absorb water, as well as various nutrients ‘locked up’ in the dirt which fungi are able to access through their digestive enzymes. In turn, the fungi receives carbohydrates that the plants were able to convert from light in a process called photosynthesis, which fungi are unable to do. Using pesticides and inorganic salts has killed these beneficial systems that transfer nutrients across species barriers. Without them even more fertilizers are needed which just end up in the drinking water. Mycorrhizal fungi can even help prevent other plant pathogens from entering the plant by creating too much competition for other much more dangerous parasitic organisms such as fire blight. So, farmers who use mycorrhizal fungi need less fertilizers and pesticides, and usually get a larger yield due to better nutrient and water absorption. These are just some of the benefits organic farmers have over the competition. Paul Stamets, in his books Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms and Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save The World, has outlined many other uses for fungi to complete what he calls ‘The Stametsian Model for Permaculture With a Mycological Twist’. For a really nice drawing, click here. On his website, Paul has reprinted an outline describing ways to use specific species of mushrooms for sustainable agriculture here.







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