Restoration of a Damaged Environment by Mushroom Mycelium

Mushrooms are a type of fungus that grows, without buds, without flowers, yet, they form fruit; could be used as a food, as a tonic, as a medicine, the entire creation is precious. Unlike plants, mushrooms do not contain chlorophyll and do not require sunlight to grow. There are more than 2000 mushroom varieties although, only some are safe for human consumption. They grow on trees, decomposing leaves, dung, mulch, soil, or compost, feeding off the dead or decaying matter in those substances. Mushrooms prefer a cool environment with temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mushroom growers can convert byproducts and waste from other sectors of agriculture into the compost or medium used to grow mushrooms. Mushrooms are an incredibly energy-efficient food. It is not only a source of nutritious protein-rich food, but it can also contribute to the production of effective medicinal products and it also helps reduce pollutants in the environment. The bioconversion of lignocellulosic biomass to food and useful products has had a significant impact on national and regional pollution levels. Bioremediation uses mushroom mycelia to remove and break down contaminants and will eventually absorb the pollutants (biosorption process), presenting another influential role of mushrooms in the ecosystem. The mushrooms have no adverse legal, ethical, or safety effects, this form of bioconversion technology has not only favorable socioeconomic, nutritional, and health benefits but also raises employment possibilities (increases job opportunity) and has a positive environmental impact.

Mushrooms are devoid of leaves and chlorophyll-containing tissues. They are also devoid of vascular xylem and phloem. Therefore, they are incapable of photosynthetic food production, relying instead on organic matter synthesized by surrounding green plants including organic products contained in agricultural crop residues. They process their food by secreting degrading enzymes that serve as the key to unlocking and decomposing the complex food materials present in the biomass where they grow to generate simpler compounds, which can be absorbed and then transformed into fresh new mushroom tissues. In terms of human utility, mushrooms can be grouped into four categories:

  • Those that are fleshy and edible fall into the edible mushroom category, such as Agaricus bisporus.
  • Considered to have medicinal applications, are referred to as medicinal mushrooms, such as Ganoderma lucidum.
  • Suspected of being poisonous are named poisonous mushrooms, such as Amanita phalloides.
  • Miscellaneous category, which includes a large number of mushrooms whose properties remain less well defined.

“Medicine and food have a common origin”

It has been noted that a nutritious balance of foods and an active lifestyle in a friendly environment, can help achieve optimal health throughout life. The use of mushrooms as diet therapy to sustain or improve health or treat illness was used by ordinary people and in the imperial court of China as far back as 2,000 years ago. Mushroom cultivation techniques were introduced from France to other European countries, to North America, and now to countries throughout the world. The development of mushroom cultivation technology has been largely responsible for the increase in mushroom production.

The pyramidal model is particularly applicable to mushrooms, whose nutritional qualities and tonic effects as nutriceuticals or as dietary supplements (DSs) and medicinal attributes have long been recognized. Human health may be divided into three states: health, sub-health, and illness. Mushrooms can be used mainly as food for a healthy state, as medicine for illnesses, and as DSs for a sub-healthy state, as well as for both healthy and ill states.

Since the end of World War II, mushroom production has increased steadily in agricultural-based industries. Overall, world mushroom production contributes from countries with developing economies including China, India, Poland, and Hungary. In contrast, mushroom production in Western European countries, the United States, and Japan has remained unchanged or has even fallen. China especially has witnessed a huge increase in edible mushroom cultivation and now makes the largest contribution, by over 85%, to the total worldwide output. India’s annual production of mushrooms doubled, from 5,000 tons in 2001 to 10,000 tons in 2004, and is expected to continue about 19%.

The Cultivation of Mushrooms

Phase I- Producing fresh compost, depending on the raw materials this phase takes a minimum of 5 up to even 18 days, with the objectives of mixing the straw or horse manure (this can replace the straw to a large extent) chicken manure, gypsum, and water, so that the compost becomes homogeneous; and Opening up the straw, so that the straw absorbs water and the mushroom fungus, the mycelium, can grow in the straw.

Phase II- Pasteurization and conditioning, the compost is filled in a closed room. The room in which the compost is put is called a tunnel. The first part consists of pasteurizing, which is making the compost pathogen-free, during the second process, in phase II the compost is conditioned, in which the ammonia from the compost is converted.

See, the full step wise production of Mushrooms.

Phase III- Mycelium growth in the compost, after phase II, the compost is taken from the tunnel and mixed with spawn. Spawn consists of specially prepared grains of corn which grows on with the mushroom mycelium. From the spawn, the mycelium grows through the compost. This process takes a minimum of 14 to 18 days. This phase takes place both at the tunnel company in the same room where phase II takes place or at the production company.

The Environmental Significance of Mushroom Cultivation

Technologies and innovations for human development are expanding every day. However, our world’s inhabitants still face, and will continue to face, three basic problems: (a) inadequate food supplies, (b) diminishing quality of health, and (c) increasing environmental deterioration. With the population still growing by about 80 million each year, it is hard not to be alarmed. Inevitably, the amount of food and the level of medical care available to each individual will decrease, and global ecosystems will be subjected to intensified abuse.
Organic solid wastes are a kind of biomass, which are generated annually through the activities of the agricultural, forest, and food processing industries. They consist mainly of three components: cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. The general term of these three main building blocks of plant fiber is known as lignocellulose. These are organic compounds composed of long chains of carbon and hydrogen, structurally similar to many organic pollutants. They have insignificant or less commercial value and certainly no food value, at least in their original form.

It should be noted that this compost is rich in nitrogenous material, contains partly degraded lignocellulosic components that, when combined with pure animal dung or human excrement in a biogas digester, yields not only biogas but is also a good quality organic nitrogenous fertilizer in the form of sludge. Biogas, and biofertilizer should be considered a feasible approach for rural and urban lignocellulosic waste utilization and disposal.

Economic and Social Impacts

The main disposal methods of these materials include burning, burying, and dumping at unplanned and uncontrolled landfills. Thereby, they may serve to pollute the environment in some cases if they are not properly treated. These lignocellulosic biomass waste materials are potential raw substrates for the cultivation of both edible and medicinal mushrooms, which are beneficial to human welfare as mentioned above. The following statements summarize the significance of mushrooms in our drive toward alleviating poverty, enhancing human health, and arresting environmental degradation:

  • Mushrooms can convert lignocellulosic waste materials into a wide diversity of products (such as food, dietary supplements, herbal medicines, and cosmetics) that have multi-beneficial effects on human beings. Besides, mushroom cultivation can positively generate equitable economic growth.
  • Mushrooms are relatively fast-growing organisms. Some tropical mushrooms can be harvested and consumed within 10 days after spawning. By the use of appropriate strains, mushrooms can be cultivated all year round. They can be cultivated using traditional farming techniques in rural areas, or by using highly industrialized technologies in urban and peri-urban communities.
  • Mushroom cultivation can be labor-intensive. Thus, the activity can generate new jobs, especially in tropical, less-developed countries.
  • While land availability is usually a limiting factor for many types of primary production, mushroom cultivation requires relatively little land space.
  • Mushrooms have been accepted as human food from time immemorial and can immediately supply additional protein to human food. Other sophisticated and unconventional sources of food protein, such as yeast, uni-algal cultures, and single-cell proteins, have relatively more complicated requirements and need to be processed before they can be consumed.
  • Edible mushrooms should be treated as healthy vegetables. After improving the cultivation techniques, they should be cultivated as widely and as cheaply as other common vegetables, which will thus be beneficial to the general public.

The mushrooms have more than 130 medicinal functions, and fungi including antitumor, immunomodulating, antioxidant, radical scavenging, cardiovascular, anti-hypercholesterolemia, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, antifungal, detoxification, hepatoprotective, anti-diabetic, and many other effects.

Beneficial nutritional effects of mushrooms

Mushrooms are rich in proteins, chitin (dietary fibers), vitamins, and minerals, low in total fat but with a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, and they have no cholesterols. As for the characteristics of taste, mushrooms serve as a delicious foodstuff and also as a source of food flavoring substances (because of their unique flavors). In addition to the volatile eight-carbon compounds, the typical mushroom flavor consists of water-soluble taste components such as soluble sugars, polyols, organic acids, free amino acids, and 5-nucleotides.

  • They have a low energy level, which is beneficial for weight reduction.
  • Have a low glucose level, and more mannitol, which is especially beneficial for diabetics.
  • They have a very low sodium concentration, which is beneficial for the diet of persons suffering from high blood pressure.
  • Mushrooms have a high content of several key vitamins, which is an important orthomolecular aspect. This means that a significant part of the daily requirement of different essential vitamins can be covered by consuming mushrooms.
  • Mushrooms have a high content of potassium and phosphorus, which is an important orthomolecular aspect as well, and selenium, which is regarded as an excellent antioxidant.

The best-known anticancer drugs are, for example, Krestin, Lentinan, Sonifilan, and Befungin, prepared from different species of medicinal mushrooms. The best implementation of medicinal mushroom dietary supplements have been in preventing and maintaining immune disorder or dysfunction of the immune system diseases, including autoimmune disorders, especially for immunodeficient and immunosuppressed patients, patients under chemotherapy or radiotherapy, different types of cancers, chronic blood-borne viral infection of Hepatitis B, C, and D, different type of anemia, the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Herpes simplex virus (HSV), chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein Bar virus, patients with chronic gastritis and gastric ulcers, caused by Helicobacter pylori.

Concluding Remarks

Today we face many challenges for global human welfare involving inadequate regional food supplies, diminishing quality of health, and ongoing environmental deterioration. We urgently need to increase our knowledge and technology required for fair and effective global responses. Mushrooms can be used as food for a healthy state; pure refined products can be used in the diet, as medicine for compromised health, and crude extract products mainly can be used as dietary supplements (nutriceuticals) for a sub-healthy state, as well as for both healthy and ill states. Mushrooms are environmentally very friendly. They biosynthesize their food from agricultural crop residues, which, just like solar energy, are readily available and sustainable. Moreover, although physical and chemical technologies may, in some cases, play important associated roles, mushroom production can often be applied to situations where large-scale capital-intensive operations are inappropriate.

(Pictures from google)

Published by Neel Kamal

My name is Neelkamal. Here, I will provide the content effective for everyone who want to learn more and more. And if you want, I am open for your suggestion to write on. I have done M.Sc in Biotechnology and also read about the Political, Social, Environmental issues. So, my blog will surrounds upon topics related to these subjects.

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