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Turkey tail toxin treatment

 
John Elliott
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Have you ever seen a tall dead snag of a tree covered with little chips of fungus from the ground to the sky? There is a such a tree in my neighborhood.

In time, this trunk will fall over, and the decomposition process will continue, and the spores from the fungus chips will be spread by the wind, looking for newly dead trees to colonize. One particular species that is very common is called the turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), for its resemblance to the back end of said bird.

This particular species is also the subject of quite a bit of scientific research into how fungi decompose environmental toxins. Here is a paper on the metabolism of DDT by the turkey tail fungus which shows 73% degradation of the DDT after a 40 day incubation.

If you would like to carry out a Turkey tail detoxification, if there is some patch of soil that seems poisoned to you, here are some steps to follow to make your own fungal inoculate:
(1) Scrape the turkey tails off of their host log.
(2) Throw them in the blender, add some water and make a thin puree.
(3) Sprinkle this liberally over a pile of wood chips, bark, or some shredded mulch.
(4) Be sure to water it in good and soak it down with the garden hose once a day (around sundown is best).

In a few weeks, you should be able to dig down a couple of inches and see lots of white mycelium covering the surfaces of your mulch material. This is the living mycelium of the fungus, the part that grows and produces enzymes that decompose and detoxify pollutants. The turkey tail pieces that you collected, they have none of this active metabolism going on; they are just the fruiting bodies that contain the spores for the next generation of this fungus. Where can you use this mycelium enriched mulch?

How about:
(1) That place where the previous owners parked their junk cars, that spot where motor oil has dripped into the soil, turned it brown, and nothing grows.
(2) If you live in certain parts of Conway, AR, your whole back yard. It may take a lot of this to clean up after the Exxon folks leave.
(3) That bare spot that you keep trying to reseed, but nothing seems to sprout from.
(4) Mix it in with the biomass you are throwing into your latest hugelbed. Nothing like a little extra fungus to inoculate things with.
(5) Mix it with the mulch you put around your fruit trees. This fungus doesn't attack living trees, so it is safe, and tilts the soil food web to being fungal dominated.
(6) ??? You tell me. I would like to see people use fungi for more than just pizza toppings and things to put in omelets. If you have some environmental concern or problem, let's work it out on this thread so you can put it behind you and continue your permaculture efforts.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I would like to try this around some fruit trees. We don't have any toxic areas on this forty that we know of. There were hogs on a corner here decades ago where I suppose something may have been used but it is wooded again and seems OK.
I am not positive that we have correctly ID'd turkey tails on our land but I wondered if any other fungus would work as well. We have big clumps of what I think are called friendship mushrooms at the roots of some dying trees...would they work? I know they are not edible but I think not particularly toxic either...might get a blender just for that.
Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge here!
 
John Elliott
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Those trees may be dying because of the mushrooms. Your "friendship mushroom" (Amillariella tabescens) reminds me a lot of the maiitake, another clumping mushroom which has crossed the line from being saprophytic to pathogenic on some trees. Tell me, are these dying trees oaks by any chance? Oaks are vulnerable to this kind of attack, fruit trees maybe not so much, but I would advise against it.

This is where knowing your mushroom taxonomy becomes important. You wouldn't want to drench your fruit trees with a heavy load of spores from a possible pathogen. Best to stick to shelf fungi from a dead, dead log.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5613
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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bike chicken fungi trees urban woodworking
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They are white oaks...there is a fungus killing stressed trees in this area, both white and red oak. I need to pay more attention this year to the trees that the mushrooms are near, if those trees also have the fungus which causes them to loose their bark and turn a greyish color.

...so I will work on my dead log shelf fungi ID! Thank you.
 
C Sanct
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Location: Southern California
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I'm so glad these forums have resources to deepen my understanding of mycoremediation. I've heard paul stamets speak of the miracles of Turkey Tail and I'm excited by their potential.

John Elliott wrote:
(4) Mix it in with the biomass you are throwing into your latest hugelbed. Nothing like a little extra fungus to inoculate things with.
(5) Mix it with the mulch you put around your fruit trees. This fungus doesn't attack living trees, so it is safe, and tilts the soil food web to being fungal dominated.
(6) ??? You tell me. I would like to see people use fungi for more than just pizza toppings and things to put in omelets. If you have some environmental concern or problem, let's work it out on this thread so you can put it behind you and continue your permaculture efforts.


4. Sounds good, but is there a chance of "over-inoculating"? Is there such a thing as too much mycelium in a soil?

5. Tilts the soil food web to being fungal dominated as opposed to being dominated by what? Microbes that may come and go?

6. Thank you for offering your advice on working out environmental concerns through fungi. I have plastic mesh buried and hiding in the dirt, and I have paint chips scattered throughout the surface and subsurface of the soil. I haven't bought Stamets' book "Mycelium Running" yet, but I know he supposedly has recommendations for remediating heavy metal and plastic polluted soils. What would be your plan of attack? I'm more than willing to give more details if you need them. Thanks
 
John Elliott
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4. Sounds good, but is there a chance of "over-inoculating"? Is there such a thing as too much mycelium in a soil?


No.

Tilts the soil food web to being fungal dominated as opposed to being dominated by what? Microbes that may come and go?


Bacterial dominated. And compared to fungi that form a mycelial net underground, bacteria are more "come and go". There are only 3 major families of food plants that do not form mycorrhizal associations that help them grow: Brassicas (cabbage family), Chenopodium (beet and chard family), and Amaranthaceae (amaranth and quinoa). For these plants, you want to keep the mushrooms out of the compost tea and let it develop a good crop of aerobic bacteria.

I would suggest you get a load of wood chips from a tree service company. I find they are quite happy to dump their trucks on your property, it saves them a trip to the landfill and a tipping fee. A big pile of tree trimmings is not a compost pile, it usually doesn't have enough nitrogen to get the bacterial composting process going, and so it does the lower temperature fungal one. Once you have a nice pile of mulch that has been inoculated through and through with fungi, you can spread it out on your problem area (maybe even roto-till it in if it's a big problem) and it will start to work on your heavy metals, plastics, oil spill, and whatever.

How big an area are we talking about?
 
leila hamaya
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turkey tails are so abundant here. i thought it was cool that one of the logs i used for the edge of the garden bed had major amounts of them growing on them. they are really everywhere around here. theres also a lot of other similar shelf mushrooms like that, these large dark browns i find around. forget the name of them now, but they are also medicinal

those ones you pictured there are so colorful!

 
C Sanct
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Location: Southern California
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John Elliott wrote:
Once you have a nice pile of mulch that has been inoculated through and through with fungi, you can spread it out on your problem area (maybe even roto-till it in if it's a big problem) and it will start to work on your heavy metals, plastics, oil spill, and whatever.

How big an area are we talking about?


I would like to see what is possible with 800-1000 square feet and observe how long it takes for the metals and plastics to disappear. Do you think I should be targeting each pollutant with a particular species? I'd like to utilize the fungi that break down these particular pollutants most efficiently. If you've conducted any of your own mycoremediation experiments I'd love to see your results.
 
John Elliott
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Fungi are generalists when it comes to mycoremediation, so the shotgun approach of tossing in everything that you find on a local mushroom hunt is probably the best strategy. Where specificity is needed, and this was a clever piece of work by Stamets, is isolating and culturing Cordyceps species to use as an insecticide --specific species for a specific problem.

The reference bible for all your questions on mycoremediation can be found here. Being retired, I no longer submit proposals and get funded to do quantifiable scientific research suitable for publication. I'm more of a tinkerer trying different things in the garden and noting what seems to work particularly well. I've had pretty good results using turkey tails to inoculate large piles of mulch. When I use that mulch on vegetables that are planted in an area with a known Fusarium problem, the Fusarium seems to go away.
 
C Sanct
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Thanks for the link. Too bad the book is $148. I think I'll try to find some P. Chrysosporium, and try my hand at a little mycelium mining.
 
David Hartley
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I know textbooks say that the cabbage family doesn't... But... A Stamets intern witnessed otherwise... And... As I have been thinning out my fodder radish, I swear I have pulled some up with interconnected mycellium
 
John Elliott
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Did you put it under the microscope?

The difference between ecto- and endo- mycorrhizal here is important. Endomycorrhizal means that the fungal hyphae are actually interspersed into the structures of the plant root, while ectomycorrhizal merely means that the fungus grows on top of roots, maybe as a way to get from point A to point B. If you found white hyphae on your radish roots it could be mere coincidence of two things growing toward the same place at the same time. If you can see actual interplay between the radish roots and the fungus, say in a stained section on a microscope slide, that might be something worthy of publication.
 
Johan Fuglevik
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David are you thinking about the brusselsprouts elmoyster combo? The elmoyster is presented as a saprophytic nonmycorrhizal mushroom in the book. BTW there is a big disagreement to what fungi Stamets elmoyster actually is, most on shroomery seem certain that it is not the actual elmoyster but some other oyster...

I have the so called elmoyster now added in my yard as well as Stropharia rugosoannulata.

A blog with a lot of shorts about mycoremediation
http://radicalmycology.wordpress.com/

it also links to a cheaper book
http://www.newsociety.com/Books/E/Earth-Repair
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
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I read this thread because turkey tails have been found on my property. What a great use! I've got a muddy spot downhill from a small parking area where I have seen that rainbow oil slick substance that made me nervous to do much nearby. I happen to have a pile of wood chips on those parking spaces. They've been there over a year now so there's already some kind of mycelium running around in the pile. Could I use what I already have, or should I start anew to be sure it's turkey tail?
 
John Elliott
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If you've got mycelium in your wood chips, it's busy working away on the mini oil slicks that drip off of engine blocks. The only reason to start anew would be if the oil sheen is not going away quick. Left to their own devices, fungi break stuff down at a slow pace. If we want quick results, we often have to load up a contaminated area with a lot of mushroom spawn. Think of it as a CFFO (confined fungal feeding operation). As far as I know, there is no People for the Ethical Treatment of Fungi organization that will get after you for it.
 
To Ma
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great post! I love the low-tech mycoremediation ideas. Turkey tail is very easy mushroom to get growing
 
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