The unusual uses of the wood wide web
The relationship between fungi and host trees is sometimes called the ‘ Wood Wide Web’. It is estimated that 90 percent of land plants are in mutually-beneficial relationships with fungi, and these fungal bodies cover vast areas, often acres in size. Some are so big, NASA has mapped them from space.
There are two types of commonly-eaten mushrooms: saprobic and symbiont. Common field mushrooms and some other edible fungi are saprobic, meaning they live and feed on decaying material, helping to decompose it into simple molecules that can then be taken up by plants and other organisms living in the soil.
Mycorrhizal fungi, the wild mushroom varieties the Krummenachers grow, are symbiont, meaning they work with the roots of plants.
It’s the ultimate barter system, fungi passing on valuable nutrients and minerals to the tree, the tree sharing its bountywith the fungi.
However, new research is showing that there can be many other benefits for the trees besides nutrient exchange, such as increased resistance to disease, and enhancement of a plant’s ability to gather nutrients and water from the soil.
Scientists have also found amazing new ways they can use fungi to grow more than just mushrooms you can eat. There are now companies using mycelium-based technology to grow products. Fungi can grow into almost any shape. Give them a space to fill and you can grow furniture, clothing, building products, and packaging materials.
It’s a win for manufacturing companies. They use far less polluting resources and energy, and the end-product is biodegradable.
Fungi enzymes are also now used in detergents to break down stains. The result is you can use less water and the washing water can be cold. It means huge savings in water-heating costs and less need to use chemicals.
Packaging is usually a one-use product and hugely wasteful. These fungi have grown into a type of packaging that is practical but also energy-efficient to make and easily biodegradable.