Throughout history, we’ve seen mushrooms as tasty, medicinal, and consciousness-expanding. Thanks to mycoremediation, they might also become key to saving the planet.
Fungi break down chemicals in ways that regenerate ecosystems. Scientists employ them to combat contamination from oil spills, pesticides, plastics, and radiation. The mycelium might restore inhospitable parts of the planet and reverse the damage done by humans.
Join us to discover innovative ways we might employ fungi to heal the earth.
What Is Mycoremediation?
Mycoremediation is a form of bioremediation: using living organisms to remove contaminants from nature. It comes from the Greek words mukes (fungus) and remedium (restoring balance).
In simple terms, mycoremediation means using fungi to mitigate pollution. It’s cheap, effective, environmentally sound, and very versatile. How does it work?
Fungi are the planet’s original recyclers. Their root-like mycelium network spreads below ground and secretes enzymes that dissolve waste. The materials break down into digestible nutrients for plant life.
Mushrooms circulate animal and plant material in nature; we’re now finding they might do much more. Scientists can adapt these natural processes to reverse the impact of human activity and waste production.
6 Types of Mycoremediation
Mycoremediation is a versatile category of practices for restoring water and soil sites. Let’s look at ways this process is essential for keeping the planet green and clean.
1. Mycoremediation for Toxic Soil
The manufacturing industry fills the soil with heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and nickel. These toxins make their way back to us through plants and animals we use for food.
A process called biosorption uses biological materials to remove such toxins. Several fungal species consume heavy metals and degrade them into less harmful compounds. They degrade previously “non-biodegradable” materials and reduce their negative impact.
Here are two examples of this process:
- Mycelium can repair soil fields contaminated with diesel oil. It eats up the fuel cells and feeds the ecosystem, making it regrow.
- An invention called the MycoMat covers oil residue, digests the chemicals, and eliminates them from the soil surface.
The mycelium transforms contaminants into plant food. As a result, it cleans and restores the ground, making it suitable for natural life.
2. Mycoremediation for Polluted Water
Third-world countries and urban regions often lack clean water, and the local human, animal, and plant populations suffer. Here are some examples of fungi coming to the rescue:
- Scientists found that oyster mushroom mycelia might remove E. coli bacteria from river water. As such, they reduce disease rates in populated areas.
- Toxic ash may gather in bodies of water after wildfires. The CoRenewal organization found that oyster mushrooms collect those substances and make them easier to clean.
When discussing mycoremediation for water, we can’t disregard mycofiltration: degrading pollutants using a mycelium network. For example, farms may filter their water run-off to clear it of toxins.
3. Mycoremediation for Waste Breakdown
Non-degradable plastics, paper, dyes, and textiles end up in landfills, contaminate the soil, and damage the planet. Fungi might minimize the harm done by waste production and disposal. For instance:
- Oyster mushrooms may begin degrading shopping bags within 45 days. They might also break down the synthetic dye found on the bags.
- Turkey tail mushrooms might remedy soil with PAHs, pollutants generated when we burn oil, coal, wood, and petrol. They absorb toxins and release non-harmful by-products.
- White rot fungi decompose manufactured plastics. Their by-products are safe to dispose of and may even feed the mycelium, spreading the colony.
We may introduce fungi to landfills to break down the existing garbage. Another option is to treat new industrial waste with mycelium and avoid dumps altogether.
4. Mycoremediation for Reforestation
Deforestation causes erosion and leaves the soil depleted and damaged. Reforestation is a slow process that might get speedier with mycoremediation.
The mycelium lives in harmony with its surroundings. According to research, 90% of vascular land plants are in symbiosis with fungi. We name this relationship mycorrhizae, and it helps the trees and the mushrooms thrive.
The mycelium protects plant roots from physical and chemical stress. It also breaks down old, dead wood and creates a nutrient-rich environment for new trees.
5. Mycoremediation for Crop Production
Mycorrhiza might feed crops and make them more prolific. That’s not the only way fungi aid the food industry: mycoremediation might also clear the soil of crop killers.
About a thousand known species of fungi kill or incapacitate insects. Combined, they could resolve most pest problems that affect crops. These three fungal families are the most effective as biopesticides:
- Beauveria bassiana produces spores that infect and kill potato beetles, mites, and weevils. Its infective cells linger in the environment, offering long-term protection.
- Metarhizium infects arthropods, like beetles, ants, and ticks. Once they attack a single specimen, their spores carry and deplete the entire pest colony.
- Cordyceps infect coconut root grubs and clear the space of this pest. They linger in the environment and remain safe for people and plants.
These fungi are effective against pests and safe for the environment. They clear crop fields and prevent chemical pesticide damage.
6. Mycoremediation for Clearing Radiation Sites
Researchers found mycelium and mushrooms on the reactor walls five years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. This discovery suggests mycoremediation might reverse the devastation of toxin radiation.
Melanin-rich micro-fungi have a high resistance to radiation exposure. They use the ions as an energy source, consuming nuclear fallout to grow.
The exciting implications don’t stop there, either. A group from the University of Saskatchewan trained fungi to find radiation sources and potentially detect fallout.
As research continues, fungi might let radioactive zones become habitable. Another potential application is protecting cancer patients, astronauts, and military personnel from radiation.
Prominent Mycoremediation Companies
If mycoremediation is such a prospective field, why aren’t we using mushrooms for everything? Because the technologies are still new. We expect more companies to harness fungal power as eco-preservation grows in importance.
Some companies are seeking to make mycoremediation accessible even today. Let’s look at notable names spearheading this change:
- Mycocycle is an Illinois-based company that brings mushrooms to multiple industries. It tackles demolition, oil and petrol, rubber, and agricultural waste. Workers shred waste and apply fungi onto it, producing materials used in various industries.
- Novobiom is from Belgium and introduces fungi to industrial land to make it usable for agriculture. It also offers biopiling, turning waste into low-toxicity by-products. Another area of their research is using fungi to clean large oil spills.
- MycoLogic is based in New Zealand and builds fungal filters for contaminated water. They grow mushrooms till the mycelium forms a microscopic filter, eliminating toxins from the gray water systems and farm run-off.
Research is coming out and governments are becoming more eco-conscious. In the future, such companies might receive grants as an incentive to help the planet.
The Fifth Kingdom: Saving All Five
Fungi can take almost anything, so why not let them bear the brunt of harmful human activity? Mycoremediation may solve many of the world’s problems. It feeds the soil, supports plant life, and eliminates dangerous toxins from our surroundings.
We’re still learning about the fascinating fungi biology and capabilities, but what we know so far is incredibly promising. Why not do your part and engage in amateur taxonomy? Visit our shop and get the highest-quality lab-grade spore syringes for your research.
All of the content and images on our site are for informational reference only. The cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is federally illegal in the United States. We do not promote the cultivation of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms under any circumstances. Do not contact us asking for advice related to this subject. Any products found on this site are for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. None of the psilocybin mushroom spores we offer are for consumption or cultivation. We do not sell any products containing psilocybin.