What is mycology? Mycology, at its most basic, is the study of mushrooms. But there is so much more to know about this fascinating and extremely important field
Mycology is a rapidly growing field with many intersections with other topics. From the classification and evolution of fungal species, to the use of magic mushrooms, to using mushroom mycelium for packaging material the field of mycology is diversifying. Historically mycology has primarily focused on fungal pathogens found in the agricultural world. Fungal pathogens have huge impacts on the total productivity of agriculture. Fungi can account for over 20% of total crop loss throughout the world. Many of the mycology programs in universities focus on identifying fungi or reducing fungal pathogens on agricultural crops. So what is mycology beyond the world of identification and pathology?
What is mycology in the 21st century: A new definition
Mycology is turning into a new science as cultivation and the use of fungi to support humans is increasing. What is mycology in the radical sense? I would define it as the study of fungi/mushrooms impact on people and the planet and methods of allying with fungi to improve ourselves, the planet, and our relationships. Mycology is shifting and hopefully will continue to shift towards the positive aspects of mushrooms. What are some of the positive aspects of mushrooms, let’s explore new avenues for mycology.
What is Mycology: Mushroom Cultivation
Mushroom cultivation is a huge positive field of mycology. In Asia there are over 10 research institutes and hundreds of scientists dedicated to the science and research of mushroom cultivation, here in the US, where we are still in the mushroom dark ages, there is probably 1 department in the entire country, at the University of Pennsylvania that looks at mushroom cultivation. With a minuscule 15 or so species of mushrooms cultivated in the US of the 1000’s of edible mushrooms there is plenty of room to grow. Per capita consumption of mushroom is increasing in the US and will likely only expand in the coming years. Research and education looking at and promoting new methods of cultivation, new species of cultivation, increased consumption, methods of preparation and use, will be important as mycology continues to grow.
What is Mycology: Mushroom Supplements
Mushroom supplements are a rapidly expanding field. With growth expected to go from 20 billion in 2018 to 33 billion in 2024 much more research can go into the health benefits mushrooms offer and the difference between supplements on the market. The pharmaceutical and health care industry is MASSIVE in the United States, Mycology could more and more play a big part in prevention and treatment of diseases in the United States including cancer, neural diseases, anxiety and depression, and mental health. From psilocybin to shiitakes, many species of mushrooms are being studied for different potential health effects. Mycology could radically support the evolution of health care in the United States by studying how to use and incorporate mushrooms into creating a healthy body.
At the same time there are many questions of what anatomical part of the mushroom is best to use for health benefits. Mycelium on grain is commonly used in US created supplements, but the efficacy is questionable, with up to 60% of the biomass remaining as grain and only 30-40% being converted to fungal tissue. Studying the difference in efficacy between these products is critical for the health of both the supplement industry and the consumer. Finding ways to viably convert mushroom fruiting bodies into extracted supplements is an important role mycology could pick up
What is Mycology: Mycoremediation
Everyone knows we humans have a waste problem. Not only quantity but quality of our waste is extremely bad. Here come the fungi! Mycology has an AMAZING opportunity to work with the issues of massive amounts of inorganic waste material along with massive spills of toxic materials. The potential of fungi to digest plastic is incredible and developing this into a viable large scale solution to plastic waste is a cause worth fighting for! What is more is that fungi have the unique capacity to break down petrochemicals which are spilled into the environment. Mycology could be a leading field in remediation of the planet and response to catastrophes like oil spills. By developing methods of collecting petrochemicals and inoculating them with massive amounts of mushroom material mycology could have massive positive impacts on the world. It is time for Mycology to evolve beyond identification and fungal diseases. Mycology needs to embrace some of the newer areas of application and issues the world is facing.
Instead of removing mycology departments from universities and cutting budgets mycology as a field should be expanded as an inter-disciplinary field impacting everything from human health to planet health. How do you want to see mycology applied in the 21st century? Are you working on amazing projects transforming waste into healthy soils with fungi? Let us know about it and support you with free spawn or consultation services.