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Fungal mycelium
Microscopic view of a mycelium.  This image covers a one-millimeter square.
Another microscopic view of a mycelium.  Numbered ticks are 230 µm apart.
Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) growing on coffee grounds
Mycelium as seen under a log

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in and on soil and many other substrates. A typical single spore germinates into a homokaryotic mycelium, which cannot reproduce sexually; when two compatible homokaryotic mycelia join and form a dikaryotic mycelium; that mycelium may form fruiting bodies such as mushrooms. A mycelium may be minute, forming a colony that is too small to see, or it may be extensive:

Is this the largest organism in the world? This 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) site in eastern Oregon had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it.Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique in that their mycelial mats can achieve such massive proportions.

Through the mycelium a fungus absorbs nutrients from its environment. It does this in a two-stage process. First, the hyphae secrete enzymes onto or into the food source, which break down biological polymers into smaller units such as monomers. These monomers are then absorbed into the mycelium by facilitated diffusion and active transport.

Mycelium is vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for their role in the decomposition of plant material. They contribute to the organic fraction of soil, and their growth releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Ectomycorrhizal extramatrical mycelium, as well as the mycelium of Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi increase the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confers resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelium is an important food source for many soil invertebrates.

"Mycelium", like "fungus", can be considered a mass noun, a word that can be either singular or plural. The term "mycelia", though, like "fungi", is often used as the preferred plural form.

Sclerotia are compact or hard masses of mycelium.

Uses[edit]

One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Petroleum products and pesticides, typical soil contaminants, are organic molecules, i.e. they are built on a carbon structure. This means that these substances present a potential carbon source for fungi. Hence, fungi have the potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, unless the chemicals prove toxic to the fungus. This biological degradation is a process known as bioremediation.

Mycelial mats have been suggested (see Paul Stamets) as having potential as biological filters, removing chemicals and microorganisms from soil and water. The use of fungal mycelium to accomplish this has been termed mycofiltration.

Knowledge of the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants suggests new ways to improve crop yields.

When spread on logging roads, mycelium can act as a binder, holding new soil in place and preventing washouts until woody plants can be established.

Since 2007, a company called Ecovative Design has been developing alternatives to polystyrene and plastic packaging by growing mycelium in agricultural waste. The two ingredients are mixed together and placed into a mold for 3–5 days to grow into a durable material. Depending on the strain of mycelium used, they make many different varieties of the material including water absorbent, flame retardant, and dielectric.[2]

Fungi are essential for converting biomass into compost, as they decompose feedstock components such as lignin which many other composting microorganisms cannot.[3] Turning a backyard compost pile will commonly expose visible networks of mycelia that have formed on the decaying organic material within. Compost is an essential soil amendment and fertilizer for organic farming and gardening. Composting can divert a substantial fraction of municipal solid waste from landfill.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stamets, Paul. Mycelium Running, Ten Speed Press,U.S.A. 2005 (p. 45, caption to figure 60)
  2. ^ Kile, Meredith (September 13, 2013). "How to replace foam and plastic packaging with mushroom experiments". Al Jazeera America. 
  3. ^ "Composting - Compost Microorganisms". Cornell University. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Epstein, Eliot (2011). Industrial Composting: Environmental Engineering and Facilities Management. CRC Press. ISBN 143984531X. 

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycelium — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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88 news items

Designboom

Designboom
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:24:14 -0700

mushroom mycelium is jonas edvard nielsen's medium of choice. combining the vegetative part of fungi (waste collected from a commercial mushroom farm), with plant filaments (leftover from the textile industry), the industrial designer grows a flexible ...

CryptoCoinsNews

CryptoCoinsNews
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 10:20:06 -0700

mycelium entropy Earlier today, Mycelium's Dmitry Murashchik, known as 'Rassah,' posted to the Bitcoin subreddit to thank the community for their involvement in successfully crowdfunding the first ever Bitcoin Paper Wallet USB Device. Over the course ...

BBC News

BBC News
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:37:30 -0700

The mushroom brick is "grown" by mixing together chopped-up corn husks with mycelium. The mixture is then put into a brick mould and left to grow for five days. The result is a brick that is solid, but lightweight. The "mushroom tower" is then ...

KQED QUEST

KQED QUEST
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 07:03:45 -0700

Feeding on agricultural waste such as sawdust or corn husks, the mycelium forms an interwoven network that can be molded into practically any shape. Growing the fungus in rectangular boxes creates “mycobricks.” More elaborate molds can be used to ...

Boing Boing

Boing Boing
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 03:52:30 -0700

Fungi, with their branching fungal filaments called hyphae (collectively called mycelium), are constantly sampling their environment's chemical properties, using specialized cell tips that can read the composition of a substance like a laboratory ...
 
Portland Monthly
Fri, 12 Sep 2014 16:37:30 -0700

The way I like to describe it is that mycelium is like the roots and the mushrooms are like the tree. It's white cottony webbed material that creates these web systems underground and is very active in recycling nutrients from decaying plant and animal ...

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 07:37:30 -0700

Innovators like Paul Stamets, author of Mycelium Running and other books, are now spreading the word. Entrepreneurial companies are even selling living fungal cultures you can add to the soil when you plant trees, giving them a leg up (or a "root" up ...

The Providence Journal

The Providence Journal
Fri, 12 Sep 2014 22:03:45 -0700

I dropped an email to a bioluminescent fungi specialist. He suggested that the light came from mycelium — the network of fine, hard-to-see filaments in the wood — from a type of honey mushroom, which is one of three species of light-producing fungi ...
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