Mycologist Paul Stamets on How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World  
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As Earth faces the perilous prospect of continuously rising temperatures, scientists and government leaders are stressing the importance of conserving our planet’s precious biodiversity.

Thus, many studies are being conducted to find effective ways to maintain sustainability. But what many may not realize is that we are surrounded by plants that may provide a promising solution: mushrooms.

Please join us today as Paul Stamets presents his findings on the remarkable vegetative part of fungi, mycelium. With six books on mushroom cultivation to his credit, Mr. Stamets is a best-selling author and leading expert in the field of mycology and holds a number of patents. 

Paul Stamets has been awarded prizes such as the 1998 Bioneers Award from The Collective Heritage Institute, and the 1999 Founder of a New Northwest Award from the Pacific Rim Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils.

His passion for nature has led him to find many surprising applications of the mycelium, such as protection against smallpox disease.

But most of all, he is a tireless advocate for this little-known component of fungi, which holds possible keys to our survival as a species.

Paul was also named as one of the Utne Reader’s "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World" in the November–December 2008.(http://www.utne.com/2008-11-13/50-Visionaries-Who-Are-Changing-Your-World.aspx)

So what is mycelium, and why is it so special? Let’s find out from renowned mycologist Paul Stamets.

Paul Stamets:
Mycelium is the fine, fibrous network that is virtually in all land masses on Earth. And anyone’s seen mycelium; you can go outside right now and find a log on the ground and tip it upside down and you'll see this white, fuzzy, cobwebby growth. That's the mycelium.

The mycelium creates soil and typically fungi are classically decomposers, they are the grand molecular dissemblers in nature. They break down wood and animal and other materials and they create soil in the process.

The health of our soil is crucial to life on this planet.

Paul Stamets:
Life on this planet depends upon soil and soil quality and as the soil increases in its carrying capacity, it increases biodiversity potential.
And we are here now because we are an evolutionary success. We are here because of trillions upon trillions of experiments over hundreds of millions of years that have been successful through natural selection.

So we should rejoice because we are an evolutionary success. For how long we'll be an evolutionary success is the big current question. And the rule of nature is when any organism exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecosystem, then that organism then is put into extinction or on the path to extinction through diseases.

And so, as our ecosystems collapse because of pollution, overpopulation, desertification, deforestation, this harms the very basis of the soil ecology that gives us life.

So we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot right now by artificially creating food networks and transporting food from all over the world and not investing in our local ecosystem.

And if we don't invest in our local soil ecosystem, then we threaten our own very existence and that of future generations.

In fact, plants, which are so vital to helping reduce harmful greenhouse gases, are all part fungi.

Paul Stamets:
Well, there's a lot of amazing discoveries in the past four or five years.

April 15, 2006 in Science News there was an article entitled “Plants are all Part Fungi.” And when they do a DNA analysis, they find fungal DNA inside of plants.

And through two catastrophic events that we know of, according to the fossil record, 250 million years ago and 65 million years ago, we had two asteroid impacts.

And when these asteroids hit the Earth, enormous amounts of debris were jettisoned into the atmosphere. It was choked with dust, sunlight was cut out.

In the fossil record, more than 90% of the species became extinct. Because fungi do not require light, those organisms that paired with fungi survived.

And through natural selection, through at least two catastrophic events from these asteroid impacts, we know that organisms that paired with fungi had an advantage compared to those organisms that were sunlight dependent or did not pair with these fungal networks.

And so all plants now, we know, are infused with fungi. So these are huge, complex communities and these communities are the basis of life on this planet.

Not only does mycelium provide a gateway for other life forms to follow, it also shows promise for application in future scientific endeavors.

Paul Stamets: 
The other things that have been remarkable, at Einstein University in this past year, researchers looking at videos of the containment vessel that surrounds the Chernobyl reactor, they were shocked to see all these black molds growing inside the reactor and they were like wondering, “How is this possible?” because there was over a million rads of radioactivity. 

Now one rad is a hundredth of a joule per kilogram, almost all life forms under that intense radiation would die off.

But these fungi were growing prolifically. And so they did this analysis, and they found that these melanin-producing fungi, these are fungi that have the same pigment causing compound that we have in our skin and when we're exposed to sunlight, we darken.

Well, these fungi also produce melanin, and it turns out that the melanin-producing fungi can utilize radiation in a fashion similar that plants utilize sunlight.

So they can actually convert radioactivity into biological metabolic activity and these cells can grow. So this was heretofore not known but it opens up the possibility of fungal networks living on other planets even though there is no sunlight.

It opens up the possibility of human space travel because we have to grow our food and fungal foods are very delicious and are very nutritious.

Right now, it’s about six months with our current technology to get to Mars and so if we had humans going to Mars, it takes six months to get there, a year on the planet, six months to get back. Well they have to generate food for two years.


They can’t carry that food with them, there’s too much mass, so they have to grow their food.
So the idea of now growing fungal foods in space, using ambient radiation, even from the reactors on the space vessels, enables us to grow food and allows us to feed humans as they
travel into outer space.

So the implications here are absolutely enormous.

When Planet Earth: Our Loving Home returns after these brief messages, Paul Stamets will continue telling us about the applications of mycelium to enhancing our world. Please keep your dial tuned here to Supreme Master Television.

Paul Stamets: 
The health of our ecosystem is essential to the health of future generations; we need to protect those future generations from the activities that we are creating now that threaten them.

Welcome back to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home here on Supreme Master Television.

Today, 923 million people suffer from food shortages, and unstable weather patterns are affecting the agricultural production of many farmers around the world.

Renowned mycologist Paul Stamets explains how mycelium offers ways to alleviate world hunger, not just as a food source by as a complementary growth enhancer for other plants.

Paul Stamets: 
The mycelium creates a mushroom, and the mushroom converts to mycelium. So you can actually eat mycelium as a fungal food source.


The pairing of fungi with plants, fortifies the immune system of the plants, lessens the need for water and external inputs like fertilizers, etc. So when you have myceliated root systems with the plants, they grow much stronger under adverse conditions. And this is something that we’re seeing now all over the world.

There is a great endophytic fungus, a fungus that grows inside of plants called Curvularia, and Curvularia, Rice and corn. It gives them heat resistance, and so they can be drought tolerant.

So with this fungus now, growing rice and corn and other grasses in arid climates is much more possible.

So this has huge implications, especially for farmers in the Middle East, that if they can grow the plants with this fungus, they need much less water. And because the fungus is a sponge in that it absorbs water, as the root system grows out, can reverse desertification and expand oasis environments.

And so one of my things that I really want to do is be involved in Africa and in the Middle East and find these interface environments where the deserts are encroaching.

And if you put mycelial bands, you can then reverse this trend and you can then grow more plants and re-green these areas.

And you do that hundreds, thousands, millions of times, then we can actually cause a climate change for the better.

And that’s something that I think that these fungi have a great use.

In his speech entitled “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World,” at the annual TEDTalks conference, Mr. Stamets spoke of how mycelium fungus has the ability to clean polluted soil and create a network for habitat restoration.

Mushrooms can also treat illnesses such as smallpox and flu, as well as provide nutrients to forests and all the consequential life that follows. In addition, mycelium can be used as a protect plants and has the ability to provide eco-friendly fuel.

For all its great benefits, mushrooms are fairly easy to grow.

Paul Stamets:
All gardeners are growing fungi anyhow. They just may not know it. So every gardener out there pulling up their plants are seeing all these fungal networks all the time.

At the point when seeds germinate, they immediately seek fungal allies, immediately. If there’s not those fungal allies right near the seed, then the seeds will starve, the plants will be a lot more anemic, they’ll be a lot more disease susceptible.

So by adding these spores and coating the spores directly upon the seeds, as soon as they germinate they then form this association. And that mantle of protection then gives the seeds a much higher probability of being able to out-compete other seeds that don’t have those mycorrhizal or beneficial fungi.

And the seeds grow faster, more fruit, more host-defensive resistance against diseases, etc. So that’s the best way is to introduce it at the germination of seeds.

We can also introduce it into the root zones, with those plants that don’t have mycorrhizal fungi yet. We can actually dip them into a bath of mycorrhizal fungi and then re-plant.

Mr. Stamets also explained that using mycelium is not only effective but also affordable and may be used to help all regions of the planet.

Paul Stamets:
So we grow tons of mycelium per week at our facility. We have hundreds and hundreds of species of fungi that we have collected out of nature.

And depending on the appropriate circumstance, they can be sent to all regions of the world. We emphasize amplifying native species from healthy ecosystems.

The problem is with many ecosystems that have been impaired or threatened or polluted, they’ve lost a lot of the native species that were once there.


So in order to repair those ecosystems, it’s best to get those native species back into play.

Thank you, Paul Stamets, for taking time to introduce the manifold planet-saving benefits of mycelium.

Through brilliant and noble endeavors such as yours, surely we may overcome the current global crisis and continue to enjoy the beautiful and irreplaceable biodiversity of our planet.

It was a pleasure having you join us on this edition of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Our show airs every Wednesday here on Supreme Master Television. Stay tuned for Enlightening Entertainment, right after Noteworthy News. May your lives be graced with many auspicious moments.

For more details on Paul Stamets please visit:

Mycelium Running:
How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World
by Paul Stamets Book available at www.fungi.com
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