A Shortcut to Mushrooms: Lightning Makes Mushrooms Multiply

Geek Culture

Photo by Koichi TakakiPhoto by Koichi Takaki

Photo by Koichi Takaki

Based on a hunch from Japanese folklore, a group of scientists has been studying the effects of lightning on mushroom growth. No, this is not a headline out of Middle Earth (but it sure did capture my attention… mmm… mushrooms). While research of this kind might be a bit of a head scratcher for some, National Geographic reports that mushroom demand in Japan has spiked so high they’ve had to rely on foreign sources for their fungal fix. But harnessing lightning just might be the key to a more fruitful harvest. From the article:

The latest results show that lightning-strength jolts of electricity can more than double the yield of certain mushroom species compared with conventional cultivation methods.

“We have tried these experiments with ten types of mushroom so far and have found that it is effective in eight species,” said Koichi Takaki, an associate professor in engineering at Iwate University.

One of the things I want to do this summer is learn to identify mushrooms, culinary and poisonous alike. And upon reading this, I wondered if there was any way to test it out in the field. I think a great experiment with my son would be venturing out into the woods after a thunderstorm and seeing if we can spot any trees stricken by lightning; if so, we could see if it encourages any natural mushroom growth in the ensuing weeks. Ah! Science in your back yard.

(via National Geographic)

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