Radical Mycology’s long time friend, Pat Rasmussen with Edible Forest Gardens in Olympia, made an incredible amateur mycological discovery the other day. Pat regularly installs perennial gardens in the Olympia area, often with the Elm Oyster mushroom (Hypsizygus ulmarius) as a potential companion for the plants. But when a local big-name mushroom farm accidentally sent her the wrong kit, she ended up installing the Nameko mushroom (Pholiota nameko) instead. 5 months later, the result were incredible. The perennial Aronia plants (similar to blueberries) planted in the area with the mushroom bed grew over twice as large as those plants grown without the mushroom companion. And the grape plants in the area did much better as well. As with all great scientific discoveries, this accident leads to a new realm of exploration in the field of plant companioning.
Why do some decomposing fungi help plants grow? The answer isn’t clear. In the book Mycelium Running, Paul Stamets worked with a research student to determine whether specific saprotrophic mushrooms would be beneficial to certain food plants if grown in proximity. After a season of growth and various plant and mushroom pairings, a few strong results surfaced. Notably, the Elm Oyster was found to dramatically increase Brassica plant growth and yield, while other pairings (such as normal Oyster mushrooms [Pleurotus spp.] paired with Brassicas) were shown to actually be detrimental to the plants. The exact reason for this is unknown. As both these mushroom species are aggressive decomposers, it can’t simply be the nutrient and carbon dioxide release. Perhaps specific enzymes being released by the Elm Oyster works to stimulate the Brassica plant’s roots or supports the soil flora. Chances are, there might be many more beneficial plant-mushrooms pairings that have yet to be discovered.
Pat’s accidental discovery is notable for 3 main reasons: 1) the Nameko mushroom has not been previously cited as a known food plant companion, 2) the dramatic results from pairing this decomposing fungus (as opposed to a mycorrhizal fungus) with a perennial plant is interesting as most better known plant-(decomposing) mushroom companionings (such as the Elm Oyster with Brassicas) are often done with annual plants and 3) Pat is an amateur mycologist! As mycology is such a young field, new discoveries are made all the time, especially by non-professionals or academics. By adding to the world of mycological knowledge, Pat is taking part in the citizen science aspect of mycology. While this pairing should be further tested to determine true efficacy, this is exactly the kind of exciting discovery we support and are inspired by at Radical Mycology. Kinda makes you wanna go play with mushrooms.
Radical Mycology co-founder Peter McCoy has co-authored a chapter on fungal remediation, Radical Mycology, and the Radical Mycology Convergence in the new book from Leila Darwish entitled Earth Repair. This book is an amazing guide to community-scale, DIY remediation and healing in disaster scenarios. Read the description below then head over to the book’s website at earthrepair.ca to pick up a copy!
Earth Repair: A Grassroots Guide To Healing Toxic and Damaged Landscapes
By: Leila Darwish
“Millions of acres of land have been contaminated by pesticides, improperly handled chemicals, dirty energy projects, toxic waste, and other pollutants in the United States and Canada. Conventional clean-up techniques employed by government and industry are not only incredibly expensive and resource-intensive, but can also cause further damage to the environment. More and more communities find themselves increasingly unable to rely on those companies and governments who created the problems to step in and provide solutions.
How can we, the grassroots, work with the power of living systems to truly heal and transform toxic and damaged landscapes into thriving, healthy, and fertile places once more? How can we respond to environmental disasters in accessible and community empowering ways?
Earth Repair explores a host of powerful and accessible grassroots bioremediation techniques to assist with the recovery of the lands and waters that nourish us. These techniques include:
Mycoremediation – using fungi to clean up contaminated soil and water.
Microbial remediation – using microorganisms to break down and bind contaminants
Phytoremediation – using plants to extract, bind, and transform toxins
Packed with valuable firsthand information, recipes and remedies from visionaries in the field, Earth Repair empowers communities and individuals to take action and heal contaminated and damaged land and water. Encompassing everything from remediating and regenerating abandoned city lots for urban farmers and gardeners, to responding and recovering from environmental disasters and industrial catastrophes such as oil spills and nuclear fallout, this fertile toolbox is essential reading for anyone who wishes to transform environmental despair into constructive action.
The book also features inspiring mycoremediation contributions from Peter McCoy (Radical Mycology) and Ja Schindler (Fungi for The People), as well as interviews with Paul Stamets (Fungi Perfecti), Mia Rose Maltz (Amazon Mycorenewal Project), and Scott Koch (Telluride Mushroom Festival).
For more information about the book and upcoming workshops, or to order the book, go to http://www.earthrepair.ca.
About the Author:
Leila Darwish is a community organizer, permaculture practioner, educator, writer, grassroots herbalist, and urban gardener with a deep commitment to environmental justice, food sovereignty, and to providing accessible and transformative tools for communities dealing with toxic contamination of their land and drinking water.
Over the last decade, she has worked as a community organizer for different environmental organizations and community groups in Alberta, BC and the USA on campaigns such as tar sands, fracking, nuclear energy, coal, climate justice, water protection, and more. She is a certified permaculture designer and has also apprenticed on different organic farms across Canada and the USA.”