Paul Stamets Edited from a TED Talk
I love a challenge, and saving the Earth is probably a good one. We all know the Earth is in trouble. We have now entered in the 6X, the sixth major extinction on this planet. I want to present to you a suite of six mycological solutions, using fungi, and these solutions are based on mycelium. The mycelium infuses all landscapes, it holds soils together, it’s extremely tenacious. This holds up to 30,000 times its mass. They’re the grand molecular disassemblers of nature — the soil magicians. They generate the humus soils across the landmasses of Earth. We have now discovered that there is a multi-directional transfer of nutrients between plants, mitigated by the mycelium — so the mycelium is the mother that is giving nutrients from alder and birch trees to hemlocks, cedars and Douglas firs. Mushrooms are very fast in their growth. Mushrooms produce strong antibiotics. In fact, we’re more closely related to fungi than we are to any other kingdom. A group of 20 eukaryotic microbiologists published a paper two years ago erecting opisthokonta — a super-kingdom that joins animalia and fungi together. We share in common the same pathogens. Fungi don’t like to rot from bacteria, and so our best antibiotics come from fungi.
We were involved with several experiments. I’m going to show you six, if I can, solutions for helping to save the world. Battelle Laboratories and I joined up in Bellingham, Washington. There were four piles saturated with diesel and other petroleum waste: one was a control pile; one pile was treated with enzymes; one pile was treated with bacteria; and our pile we inoculated with mushroom mycelium. The mycelium absorbs the oil. The mycelium is producing enzymes — peroxidases — that break carbon-hydrogen bonds. These are the same bonds that hold hydrocarbons together. So, the mycelium becomes saturated with the oil, and then, when we returned six weeks later, all the tarps were removed, all the other piles were dead, dark and stinky. We came back to our pile, it was covered with hundreds of pounds of oyster mushrooms, and the color changed to a light form. The enzymes remanufactured the hydrocarbons into carbohydrates — fungal sugars. These mushrooms sporulated, the spores attracted insects, the insects laid eggs, eggs became larvae. Birds then came, bringing in seeds, and our pile became an oasis of life. Whereas the other three piles were dead, dark and stinky, and the PAH’s — the poly-aromatic hydrocarbons — went from 10,000 parts per million to less than 200 in eight weeks. The last image we don’t have. The entire pile was a green berm of life. These are gateway species, vanguard species that open the door for other biological communities. So I invented burlap sacks, bunker spawn — and putting the mycelium — using storm blown debris, you can take these burlap sacks and put them downstream from a farm that’s producing E. coli, or other wastes, or a factory with chemical toxins, and it leads to habitat restoration. So, we set up a site in Mason County, Washington, and we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of coliforms. In 48 hours to 72 hours, these three mushroom species reduced the amount of coliform bacteria 10,000 times. Think of the implications.
We studied a rare mushroom called Fomitopsis officinalis — Agarikon, exclusive to the old-growth forest that Dioscorides first described in 65 A.D. as a treatment against consumption. We tested hot water extract from some of these and showed they were highly active against pox viruses and flu viruses. We also worked with fungi that kill insects. Our house was being destroyed by carpenter ants. So, I went to the EPA homepage, and they were recommending studies with metarhizium species of a group of fungi that kill carpenter ants, as well as termites. The industry has spent over 100 million dollars specifically on bait stations to prevent termites from eating your house. But the insects aren’t stupid, and they would avoid the spores when they came close, and so I morphed the cultures into a non-sporulating form. I put it right where a bunch of carpenter ants were making debris fields, every day, in my house, and the ants were attracted to the mycelium, because there’s no spores. They gave it to the queen. One week later, I had no sawdust piles whatsoever. The mycelium is consumed by the ants, they become mummified, and, boing, a mushroom pops out of their head. Now after sporulation, the spores repel. So, the house is no longer suitable for invasion. This is the most disruptive technology — I’ve been told by executives of the pesticide industry — that they have ever witnessed. This could totally revamp the pesticide industries throughout the world! Read More
Billie Nicholson, Editor