[permaculture] Mushroom Secrets Could Combat Carbon, Enable Better Biofuels And Clean Soil

Saor Stetler sstetler at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 18 15:56:33 EDT 2007

Mushroom Secrets Could Combat Carbon, Enable Better Biofuels And Clean Soil

by Staff Writers
Warwick UK (SPX) Jul 18, 2007

Researchers at the University of Warwick are coordinating a global effort to
sequence the genome of one of the World's most important mushrooms -
Agaricus bisporus. The secrets of its genetic make up could assist the
creation of biofuels, support the effort to manage global carbon, and help
remove heavy metals from contaminated soils.

The Agaricus mushroom family are highly efficient 'secondary decomposers' of
plant material such as leaves and litter -breaking down the material that is
too tough for other fungi and bacteria to handle. How exactly it does this,
particularly how it degrades tough plant material known as lignin, is not
fully understood.

By sequencing the full genome of the mushroom, researchers hope to uncover
exactly which genes are key to this process. That information will be
extremely useful to scientists and engineers looking to maximize the
decomposition and transformation of plant material into bio fuels.

The mushroom also forms an important model for carbon cycling studies.
Carbon is sequestered in soils as plant organic matter. Between 1-2 giga
tons of carbon a year are sequestered in pools on land in the temperate and
boreal regions of the earth, which represents 15-30% of annual global
emissions of carbon from fossil fuels and industrial activities.
Understanding the carbon cycling role of these fungi in the forests and
other ecosystems is a vital component of optimizing carbon management.

That however is not the end of the mushrooms talents; several Agaricus
species are able to hyper-accumulate toxic metals in soils at a higher level
than many other fungi. Understanding how the mushroom does this improves
prospects of using such fungi for the bioremediation of contaminated soils.

Agaricus bisporus is one of the most widely cultivated mushrooms and the
genome research will also benefit growers and consumers through
identification of improved quality traits such as disease resistance.

The University of Warwick's horticultural research arm Warwick HRI will
co-ordinate provision of genetic materials to the Joint Genome Institute in
California for sequencing, will organise analysis of the sequence data and
act as curator of the mushroom genome.



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