Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mycelium (Running? LOL)

Last week I moved the pile of willow chips (left from last year's tree trimming) for my new sheet composted area, and I found a lot of mycelium growing in it. I'm really pleased to see it! I don't fully understand all about mycelium (maybe I should buy Paul Stamet's book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World).

Here's an excerpt from one Amazon reader's review of his book: "This fascinating book is a treasure trove of effective low tech methods for 'running mycelium'. Paul describes everything from gardening techniques to soil restoration to health care application using typical gourmet mushrooms (oh what Oyster mushrooms can do) and many other species. As a scientist, he backs his data with reputable references."

The basic science goes like this: Microscopic cells called “mycelium”--the fruit of which are mushrooms--recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. That's really great for my project!

However, I now find that mycelium can do so much more: “Mycorestoration” is what Stamets calls his discovery. He found that we can capitalize on mycelium’s digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and pollutants (mycoremediation), catch and reduce silt from streambeds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds (mycofiltration), control insect populations (mycopesticides), and generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens (mycoforestry and myco-gardening).

Here's what Wiki says about mycelium:
"Mycelium is vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for its role in the decomposition of plant material. It contributes to the organic fraction of soil, and its growth releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi increases the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confers resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelium is an important food source for many soil invertebrates."

So, I am well pleased to have mycelium running in the wood chips I'm adding to my sheet composting project!

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