Like all science writers, I’m a fun guy, and some of my colleagues are even fungals.
And like any good spore-t, I wanted to go to the truffle of moulding a story of the best fungus yarns from the year.
It’s the yeast I could do for our readers.
Unfortunately, there’s not mush room to narrow down all the great fungus stories to a single list.
Mycollaegues say I’m crazy to even try, but I’m prepared to put in a champignon effort.
So, here’s five fun fungus stories I’m lichen.
Your next handbag could be made from mushrooms
The world is rethinking textiles in the hunt for more sustainable materials. One such opportunity might be in using mushrooms grown in food waste, as a long-term replacement for leather and other products. Swedish researchers presented their results in a meeting of the American Chemical Society in early 2022 and noted that unlike other faux materials, mushroom-based textiles are 100% bio based.
Potatoes in the fight against fungal problems
Bad news for fungus, but good news for us. Researchers from the University of Cambridge may have found a use for a debilitating bacterium that causes diseases in potatoes. The compound in the bacteria has been found to have a profound antifungal effect. This is a win for the search for new antimicrobials at a time where resistance to current therapeutics is on the rise among bacterial and fungal species.
Soil fungi could help us with global warming
Soil, as explained by agronomist Guy Webb, is the largest carbon sink on land. Now, scientists are looking towards fungus as one of many solutions to the planet’s carbon problem. Endophytic fungi are unique organisms which exist symbiotically with host organisms. It’s believed that these organisms, which coat agricultural-use seeds with a melanised fungus, then grow in the roots of the plant. This converts carbon dioxide absorbed by the plant during photosynthesis into a specific form of carbon that stores longer within soil.
Fungus fuelling the fight against infestation
Crazy ants are a debilitating invasive species in many places around the world. But US-based scientists have successfully trialled the use of a pathogenic fungus Myrmecomorba nylanderiae against Tawny Crazy Ants – a South American invader which has swarmed across Texas, infesting buildings and attacking native species. The fungus, it seems, does an effective job at killing worker ants – who said a society wasn’t built on the backs of its labourers? It might have potential to be used against other crazy ant species.
Of course, it’s a story about psychadelics
We couldn’t have a wrap about fungi without going for the jugular. Cosmos Weekly this year featured a story about startups chasing the golden fleece of fungal medicine through the nation’s first psychadelic biotech firm – Psylo. Its goal is to replace alternatives to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – a commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. However their goal requires them to overcome a range of challenges, including long-term societal opposition to the use of (and investment in) psychedelics.
Originally published by Cosmos as Five Fun Fungi Stories
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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