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How a simple mushroom could save forests and combat climate change

How a simple mushroom could save forests and combat climate change

Graphic showing the process of inoculating tree saplings with the fungus of the blue milk cap mushroom.

The conversion of forests into agricultural land is occurring at an incredible rate. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate at which forests are being converted to agricultural land was around 10 million hectares Every year.

Compared to 2012, the UN’s Food and Agriculture OrganisationThe FAO predicts a 50% increase in agricultural demand by 2050. In South America, 71% has been replaced by pasture while 14% has been lost for the production of. Animal feed. One of the key achievements of COP26 came from a pledge by world leaders. End deforestation before 2030.

We know that cutting down trees at such a large scale is bad for the climate and carbon. But the effects are deeper: 75% of the world’s accessible fresh waterForested watersheds are the source of these problems. And with 80% of the world’s population facing a Their water security is at riskTrees play a significant role in preventing soil erosion from occurring and helping to stem desertification. They protect coastal areas from flooding and are home to many species, many which are important crop pollinators.

So what are we to do? We all know that different foods leave different footprints. A significant impact can be made by reducing the consumption of animal-based foods. To save the planet, people can eat less meat.

But what if there was more? What if we could create a system that allows both food production and forest growth on the same land parcel, instead of having forestry and farming in conflict?

Miraculous mushrooms

This is exactly what our latest offering does ResearchThis book focuses on fungi which grow in partnership with trees in a mutually-beneficial arrangement. This is a common association, and some species can produce large mushrooms fruiting bodies such as the highly prized truffle. This is an exquisite delicacy. However, the cultivation of these species remains a new field. However, there are some notable advances in the milk caps group. These include a rare and beautiful blue species called Lactarius indigoThe blue milk cap,

High in dietary fibre and essential fatty acids, this edible mushroom’s blue pigmentation means they are easy to identify safely. The extracts are antibacterial and have the ability to kill bacteria. Stop cancer cellsThe blue milk cap may also be a source for pharmacological potency.

Graphic showing the process of inoculating tree saplings with the fungus of the blue milk cap mushroom.

Paul Thomas/University of Stirling, Author provided

We describe in our paper how to cultivate this species. This includes isolation in the laboratory and creating young tree saplings with roots inoculated by this symbiotic fungal fungus. These trees can then grown in a range of climate zones from Costa Rica to the US. As the tree and fungus’s partnership matures, they start to produce these incredible mushrooms packed with protein.

Pastoral beef production dominates the agriculture on cleared forested land. 4.76-6.99kg protein per hectareProduced annually. This system could be replaced with planting trees that host the milk caps fungus. 7.31kg of proteinEvery year. You can eat the mushrooms fresh or you can process them to make other food items.

This would increase food production without the environmental impacts of intensive farming, such as fertilizer, water use, and the growing of additional feed. Beef farming is a contributor to climate change. However, these fungus-inoculated plants draw down carbon from the atmosphere as they grow. This aids in the fight against climate change. This can not only produce more food but also help conserve biodiversity, increase economic development in rural areas, and act as a carbon sink to greenhouse gases.

See Also
Garment workers in Bangladesh, 2021

An aerial view of a burning deforested piece of land next to a strip of rainforest
To make way for beef production, forests are still being bulldozed.
Richard Whitcombe/Shutterstock

Mexcio harvesting is often a family affair where fungi can be traded informally for goods or exchanged for them. In Guatemala, the blue milk cap is one of the most loved edible mushrooms. This creates economic potential for the community and empowers them on a smaller scale. There are also trading opportunities for international and national corporations.

We believe this approach is cheaper – or more cost effective – than beef farming. However, this is a new technology that requires support. This requires further research and financial investment to ensure that the technology is developed to the point where agribusinesses can confidently invest at scale.

Even with support, the product must still be in demand. With environmental and health concerns in mind, it is not surprising that a large proportion of meat-eaters have reduced or decreased the amount of meat they eat. It has risen from 28% to 39% in 2017According to market research. And sales of meat-free foods are expected to reach £1.1 billion by 2024. Clearly there’s a market, as ordinary people endeavour to do their bit for the planet. With so much at stake, we need to urgently pursue the promising possibilities that fungi offer.

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