So far too dry: That will probably be a bad fungal year

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Going into the forest and collecting mushrooms – many people enjoy it. Mushroom apps help with the search only limited, says Wolfgang Prüfert of the Society of Mycology. (Photo: dpa)

Friday, September 14, 2018

This year, the mushroom yield is meager: Because of the long drought, only a few edible mushrooms can be found in many regions so far. Do we have to adjust more often to bad fungal years in the face of climate change?

For mushroom pickers this summer is anything but great. Jens Karius has been mushrooming since he was a child. But the 47-year-old from Weyhe near Bremen has never experienced such a bad season. "The summer mushrooms have completely failed," he says. Even during his holiday in Sweden, where the mushrooms usually grow abundantly, he had no luck. This is due to the drought this summer. Because most mushrooms do not like that at all. "At the moment there is still relatively little to get", confirms Marco Thines, President of the German Society for Mycology. This can draw on the concentrated knowledge of scientists, hobby researchers, breeders and conservationists. "Local differences are huge," says Thines. "But for the whole of Germany I would expect a rather bad fungal year." However, if it rains properly in the coming weeks, that could change. Mushroom studies are lacking in mushrooms, chanterelles and chestnuts: Not many mushroom pickers currently have such a rich yield. (Photo: dpa) Do mushroom pickers have to adjust to bad years in the face of climate change? Experts can not definitely answer that. "It is found that some fungi occur earlier than usual in the year and heat-loving species are more abundant," says Thines. "At the moment these are trends." However, there are no studies that statistically evaluate this. The reason: where to grow which mushrooms, report only a few dozen volunteers. Therefore, the database is meager. About 9000 big mushrooms are known in Germany. 6000 has been investigated by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation for their endangerment. A quarter of them are therefore on the Red List, so is considered more or less vulnerable. Another quarter is considered safe. For the remaining species, experts can not give a precise assessment because there is not enough data. "There are mushroom species that were once widespread and are now hard to find," says Thines. Of the mushrooms, only about 100 are important as edible mushroom, but they too would lose habitats. Outstanding role for ecosystems such as the forest One example is the meadow mushroom, which the intensive agriculture tamper with. Nitrogen accumulates in the soil through fertilizers and car exhaust gases, to which most fungi are sensitive. "In Germany, there are no forests outside of the national parks that are natural," adds Thines. Many rare mushrooms exist only where dead wood lies around. This is not only bad news for mushroom enthusiasts, but also for ecosystems like the forest. Because mushrooms play an outstanding role in this. They are the only organisms that can decompose dead tree trunks in a few years. In addition, they supply trees and herbs with nutrients and water with their subterranean network. Moreover, they live in symbiosis with many plants and animals – helping cows, for example, to digest grass. Without them, cereal or fruit growing would be almost impossible, drugs such as antibiotics, bread and wine could not be produced. Therefore, scientists such as the evolutionary biologist Thines of the University of Frankfurt and the leisure mushroom connoisseur Karius can equally be enthusiastic about the diverse organisms. "I do not just like mushrooms," says Karius. "You are beautiful too." For a year he has been a certified fungal expert of the German Society of Mycology. For the first time this year, he is offering mushroom hikes and advising collectors who are unsure about finding fungi that are found.More collectors and experts More about going to the forest and collecting mushrooms – in the meantime, more people are enjoying it. The German Society of Mycology shows this in the increasing number of fungal experts. But even laymen are attracted to the mushrooms. All kinds of destination apps for the smartphone make the search supposedly easier today. But mushroom connoisseur Karius thinks little of it. "I find that risky, especially with mushrooms, where there is a risk of poisoning yourself," he says. "Some fungi can only be distinguished from one another with a microscope." Wolfgang Prüfert tested some apps for the German Society of Mycology in 2015. His verdict: mushroom pickers, who trusted only one app in the search, play with their lives. Although more apps have come on the market since then, Prüfert sees no groundbreaking innovation. "Beginners should completely keep their fingers off apps," is his recommendation.



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