Study Finds That Planting Mushrooms Through Mycoforestry Can Feed Almost 19 Million People

Edible mushrooms: yea or nay?

Either you love them or you hate them; there seems to be no in-between when we’re talking about mushrooms. They’re an acquired taste, if you will.

But mushrooms are healthy! They’re low in calories and fat, yet they’re packed with various nutrients. What makes them more appealing for health enthusiasts is that mushrooms also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anticancer effects, according to Harvard.

PHOTO: Unsplash/Thanh Soledas

In addition to mushrooms being used for food or as medicine, did you know that mushrooms can be used as a beehive? Versatile little things, aren’t they?

So they can help save endangered honey bees, but a study claims that mushrooms can also help mitigate food scarcity while simultaneously helping with the ever-present threat of deforestation.

“Demand for agricultural land is a potent accelerating driver of global deforestation, presenting multiple interacting issues at different spatiotemporal scales,” the study said.

The researchers proposed that planting edible ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) can reduce the food-forestry land-use conflicts, thus enabling appropriately managed forestry plantations to contribute to protein and calorie production and potentially increasing carbon sequestration.

“We’ve got very ambitious tree-planting targets in Scotland and across the UK more generally,” said co-author Alastair Jump, a plant ecologist at the University of Stirling.

Jump put the goal of their research in simpler terms; their research introduces a way that would make it so that we can get trees and an edible crop into the same space, he said.

“EMF are plant symbionts, exchanging nutrition for plant-derived carbohydrates through a structure with the host plant’s root system, known as mycorrhiza, and include over 900 edible species,” the study said.

PHOTO: Pixabay/Andreas

One such EMF the researchers mentioned is Lactarius deliciosus, more commonly known as saffron milk cap or red pine mushroom, which is a mushroom that’s already widely used in Spanish cuisine. Although it’s named “delicious,” it’s said to be misleading, as they have a mild taste or are sometimes slightly bitter.

“We looked at the emerging field of mycoforestry, where fungi that grow in symbiosis with living trees are used to create a food crop from new tree plantings, and we found that production of fungi using this system can lead to a very significant sequestration of greenhouse gas,” author Paul Thomas said.

This approach will not only help provide food and help mitigate deforestation, but it will also help combat climate change.

“By producing this food, we can actively help mitigate climate change. When we compared this to other major food groups, this is the only one that would result in such benefits — all other major food categories lead to a greenhouse gas emission during production,” Thomas said.

Watch the researchers talk more about the study in the video below.

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