The intentional use of saprophytic (decomposer) and mycorrhizal (plant symbiant) fungi in plant farming, despite promising initial results, is rare. The potential of fungi to improve agricultural production is so great it behooves those of us who grow mycelium to share it with farmers.
As fungi decompose organic matter (mostly cellulose and lignin), they leave behind humus, the basic foundation of good soil. As the mycelial network expands through the soil in search of more food, some interesting things happen:
First, mycelium is strong, very strong. It holds the soil (which it’s actively producing) together and even stabilizes air pockets within the soil matrix. This accomplishes several things: roots have more space to grow, the soil captures more water and is more resistant to erosion. Erosion and ever-decreasing soil depth are major challenges to the world's food supply.
Second, mycelium is a network, meaning that distant points are strongly connected that otherwise wouldn’t be. It’s a network that loves water, so if a low-lying section of field remains saturated while the higher elevations are drying up, mycelium will wick up and distribute that water more evenly. Likewise, if the field gets deluged, mycelium will soak up as much water as it can and force the water above ground in the form of scores of plump mushrooms.
Third, mycelium provides many of the essentially nutrients plants need. It breaks proteins into free amino acids; it frees minerals in a form that’s easily taken up by plants (especially with mycorrhizae present); it attracts other crititical organisms to the root zone. Mycelium also “exhales” carbon dioxide at ground level, boosting the rate of photosynthesis. If you’ve ever seen circles in your lawn where the grass is longer inside than it is outside, you’ve seen the plant-boosting properties of mycelium at work. Or you’re a lousy mower. Either way, this is important stuff.
Mycopolitan works with Adrian Galbraith-Paul and the farm hands at Heritage Farm to grow mushrooms outdoors and provide customers with quality products for the home garden.
We are excited to pass along our products and bi-products to folks interested in observing the effects of increased fungal diversity in their landscapes. Visit our online store to get started growing mushrooms at home, or let us know you'd like a truckload of spent mushroom substrate to add to your compost . If you raise animals or worms, stop by the farm and grab nutritious mushroom trimmings.
It is this type of open-source collaboration-- that which benefits all parties: the farmers, the animals, the customers, and the Earth-- that has the potential to create new, better ways of doing things. By working together, we will uncover those intersections wherein bounty lies.