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.
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.
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.
For forestry, not only do saprophytic fungi help break down and recycle organic matter. They also help combat many parasitic fungi (blights) that may kill large numbers of trees. Stamets gives useful suggestions on how to seed beneficial saprophytic fungi in blight infested forests as a natural “fungicide,” fighting fire with fire, so to speak.
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 form symbiotic relationships with mushrooms. The mushroom mycelium more effectively absorbs water and nutrients, exchanged with trees for sugars, making the trees healthier and more drought resistant. Mycorrhizal fungi also provide trees with natural antibiotics against pathogens.
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.
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 is extremely economical, at less than 5% the cost of some conventional methods for cleaning up toxic waste.
This plethora of information is merely the first half of this 300-page tome. Part III, which makes up the second half of the book, is an instruction manual on how to cultivate your own mushroom mycelium, which can be used for the above listed purposes, or to grow your own medicinal or culinary mushrooms. And seriously, who doesn’t love gourmet mushrooms? In other words, this is a reference book for every household.
Dr. Rafael has worked in the natural health field since finishing Chiropractic College in 1996. He currently specializes in medicinal fungi, frequently consulting two reference books: Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets for medicinal, biological and chemical properties of mushrooms, and Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora as the most complete identification guide for North American mushrooms.