The Coming Mycocultural Revolution, Part 1

david-law-knudsen1-cropped.jpg

By David Law, President/CEO, Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc.

The world population reached 1 billion in year 1804. Within a short span of about 200 years, the world population has jumped to 7 billion in 2012. It is estimated that 2 billion more people will be added to the world in the next 40 years for a total of 9 billion. How will the world produce enough food to support this phenomenon?

In the Oct 5, 2009 issue of Yale Environment 360, Professor Jonathan Foley (University of Minnesota) authored an opinion piece titled “The Other Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis in Global Land Use”. This article was developed into a TED Talk presentation in Oct. 2010. I recommend highly for readers to read and watch these opinion pieces.

Professor Foley opined that our current agricultural practice has exerted the following impact on our environment:

  1. Ecosystem degradation. We have cleared and converted more than 35% of the earth’s ice-free land surface, whether for croplands, pastures or rangelands.
  2. Freshwater decline: Across the globe, we already use a staggering 4,000 cubic kilometers of water per year, withdrawn from our streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers. Of this, 70 percent is used for irrigation, the single biggest use of water, by far, on the globe.
  3. Widespread pollution. The use of industrial fertilizers and other chemicals has fundamentally upset the chemistry of the entire planet. Already, the use of fertilizers has more than doubled the flows of nitrogen and phosphorus compounds in the environment, resulting in widespread water pollution and the massive degradation of lakes and rivers.
  4. Greenhouse gas emissions: Of the three most important man-made greenhouse gasses — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — land use and agricultural practices, including tropical deforestation, emit 30 percent of the total.

Professor Foley asked the question of how we would provide for the basic needs of 9 billion-plus people without ruining the biosphere in the process. He suggested that we should first acknowledge the problem, then invest in revolutionary agricultural solutions, and lastly bridge the artificial divide between production agriculture and environmental conservation. He recommended that we need a global conversation between advocates for commercial agriculture, environment conservation, and organic farming to come together to achieve the following:

  1. Incentives for farmers
  2. Precision agriculture
  3. New crop varieties
  4. Drip irrigation
  5. Gray water recycling
  6. Better tillage practice
  7. Smarter diets

I think I have one answer to these urgent questions and it is MYCOCULTURE.

Large scale, reliable mushroom cultivation has only been developed relatively recently in the previous 300 years. The cultural aspect of mushroom consumption is lagging behind plants and animals. Wild harvested mushrooms had been consumed seasonally in many cultures over time. It is still thought of as a seasonal crop even when mushrooms are now harvested year round. Mushroom cultivation answers many of the propositions, bridging the artificial divide between production agriculture and environmental conservation. I will put forth an outline of how mushroom cultivation will provide answers to these difficult questions in my next blog installment.