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using mycelia to desalinate the desert  RSS feed

 
Jared Angell
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I read that desert 'soils' are often saline (I assume for one reason they may have once been at the bottom of the ocean, hence the dormant cyanobacteria that some contain). Does anyone know what strain of mycelium may desalinate?
 
Ben Cains
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Have you seen greening the desert with geoff lawton?

There was a type of mushroom that was growing in the swale, it was making the salt inert and dispelling the salt away from the area?

Here is the link for the video:



Maybe try contact Geoff or the Permaculture Research Institute with a email to see if he knows which type it was?

Good luck
 
ross johnson
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Im wondering what the desert you are refering to is like,Is their an area, maybe a gully or a spring where broadleaf trees grow?

One way or another I would find a mycelium growing locally or within your region and climate if not a slightly higher elevation with simalar soil composition and general conditions and use it to cultivate IMO. But I would also say that to anyone anywhere regaurdless of their environment in any situation where soil rehabilitation or balancing was the subject.
 
Alex Brands
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Ben Cains wrote:Have you seen greening the desert with Geoff Lawton?

There was a type of mushroom that was growing in the swale, it was making the salt inert and dispelling the salt away from the area?

Here is the link for the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

Maybe try contact Geoff or the Permaculture Research Institute with a email to see if he knows which type it was?

Good luck


I have never understood Geoff's explanation about the salt in that video. He says the "fungi net that's underneath the mulch is putting off a waxy substance which is repelling the salt away from the area" What? Where is the salt being repelled to?

Then he says "the decomposition is locking the salt up....the salt is not gone, it's become inert and insoluble". I've got a good background in biology, and reasonable background in chemistry and this explanation does not make any sense to me. Obviously something very interesting is happening, since they were able to grow plants on soil that was too salty for plants before, but I find the explanation unsatisfying. Can anyone explain the chemistry of what's happened there?

Alex
 
John Alabarr
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Alex Brands wrote:
Ben Cains wrote:Have you seen greening the desert with Geoff Lawton?

There was a type of mushroom that was growing in the swale, it was making the salt inert and dispelling the salt away from the area?

Here is the link for the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

Maybe try contact Geoff or the Permaculture Research Institute with a email to see if he knows which type it was?

Good luck


I have never understood Geoff's explanation about the salt in that video. He says the "fungi net that's underneath the mulch is putting off a waxy substance which is repelling the salt away from the area" What? Where is the salt being repelled to?

Then he says "the decomposition is locking the salt up....the salt is not gone, it's become inert and insoluble". I've got a good background in biology, and reasonable background in chemistry and this explanation does not make any sense to me. Obviously something very interesting is happening, since they were able to grow plants on soil that was too salty for plants before, but I find the explanation unsatisfying. Can anyone explain the chemistry of what's happened there?

Alex



I am not a chemist, but here goes: A salt is a chemical compound that has an electrical charge and it is called an Ion. It can be either positive or negative. The fungi in the Greening the Desert video were producing substances that were binding with the positive or negative electrical charges of the ion salts and by doing so were making them electrically neutral with no net electrical charge. The salts were still there, but they were inert.

For example, if the salt had a net electrical charge of -1 and the fungus produced a substance that had a charge of +1 the opposite charges would be attracted to each other and cancel each other out so that there would be no net electrical charge.
 
John Elliott
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John Alabarr wrote:
Alex Brands wrote:
Ben Cains wrote:Have you seen greening the desert with Geoff Lawton?

There was a type of mushroom that was growing in the swale, it was making the salt inert and dispelling the salt away from the area?

Here is the link for the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

Maybe try contact Geoff or the Permaculture Research Institute with a email to see if he knows which type it was?

Good luck


I have never understood Geoff's explanation about the salt in that video. He says the "fungi net that's underneath the mulch is putting off a waxy substance which is repelling the salt away from the area" What? Where is the salt being repelled to?

Then he says "the decomposition is locking the salt up....the salt is not gone, it's become inert and insoluble". I've got a good background in biology, and reasonable background in chemistry and this explanation does not make any sense to me. Obviously something very interesting is happening, since they were able to grow plants on soil that was too salty for plants before, but I find the explanation unsatisfying. Can anyone explain the chemistry of what's happened there?

Alex



I am not a chemist, but here goes: A salt is a chemical compound that has an electrical charge and it is called an Ion. It can be either positive or negative. The fungi in the Greening the Desert video were producing substances that were binding with the positive or negative electrical charges of the ion salts and by doing so were making them electrically neutral with no net electrical charge. The salts were still there, but they were inert.

For example, if the salt had a net electrical charge of -1 and the fungus produced a substance that had a charge of +1 the opposite charges would be attracted to each other and cancel each other out so that there would be no net electrical charge.


I am a chemist and this is making my BS detector go off. Salt in the desert is sodium chloride and these are the two ions that are the hardest to bind up and "make inert". Think about it, how did they end up being the principal ionic species in the world's oceans? They mostly form soluble compounds and they don't precipitate!

That said, fungi are adept at translocating ions in that they need and ions out that they don't, so this may be the mechanism by which the salt is "dispelled". If the ions are translocated to a piece of decaying tree root 10 feet away, then they are not around to poison the plant you are trying to grow. If you want to read more, search in Google Scholar for fungi+ion+translocate and you will have thousands of hits to go through.
 
Burra Maluca
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I'm much more inclined to think that Geoff's technique of heavy mulching, combined with drip irrigation, reduced evaporation enough that water started to move *down* through the soil rather than *up* . When water travels up, it evaporates and leaves salts at the surface. When it moves down, it carries those salts down with it. A side effect of that would be much moister, less salty soil near the surface, with a good supply of high-carbon materials waiting to be broken down. Which is an excellent environment for fungi.

I think it's a case of 'more fungi' and 'less salt' happening together, but not as a result of each other.
 
Michael Cox
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I'd be with Burra on this one.

It seems likely that mulching is reducing evaporation to the extent that sporadic rain is allowing the salt ions to wash down into the subsoil, where previously rapid evaporation at the surface was drawing moisture upwards by capillary action. I've a chemical engineering degree and spent plenty of time messing about with ions and solvents. If you want to force any salt down through a medium you wash it through with something it is soluble in. The obvious solvent for sodium chloride is water which reguilarly falls from the sky, all that was missing was the direction of flow (ie water moving downwards through soil).

I always get sceptical when quasi-scientific explanations get invoked, especially when they seem to go against commonly understood chemistry (eg making sodium chloride insoluble in water). A good way to hone your bullshit-detector is to read the book "Bad Science" - very entertaining look at various portrails of science in the media and how "science" is distorted/manipulated/misunderstood.

Mike
 
allen lumley
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In order to write for the un-washed masses, (Lay people like me!) the very first thing that goes, is anything to do with the scientific principles of research ! Boring!
Usually what we get to see is a re-write of a press release from the P.R. Dept.!

So, after our reporter (who was an English major in collage) reads the Bowdlerized Press Release, ( Its been vetted by a legal dept!) He makes a couple of phone calls to
the research dept., takes to a 1st year intern, and writes and files his story !

This story is then Read by an Editor who is qualified to do his job because of the fine Education he got at Business School, and cares more about the length of the article
than its contents. Bad Science does not begin to reflect on what we regularly see as reports on Scientific advances ! Big AL !
 
Guerric Kendall
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Did anything ever come up in the search for that strain of mycelium?
 
Mary Saunders
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As I recall, there were also tree legumes in this design. There are legumes that take up salt.

A legume that does this that is not a tree is tongue of fire bean, barlotto, an Italian bean. It is almost unnecessary to add salt when cooking these.

There are plants that grow in salty places. Some succulants do as well. There is one called pickle weed that is delicious.

Regular agriculture is unlikely to do well with salt, but I find regular agriculture pretty boring anyway.
 
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