Fungi Feeding on Biochar
Usually the activities of soil organisms happen beneath our feet and beyond our ability to see. I was lucky enough the other week to capture something with my camera’s eye that brilliantly illustrated one of these too often hidden acts. Some people get excited about photographing rare birds performing extravagant mating rituals, underwater sea creatures never seen before, distant galaxies yet to be named. Me, I’m thrilled to share pictures of fungus chewing on charcoal in a pile of manure.
Why? What is so special about a fungus in a pile of cow poop? I’ll tell you why, even though the giant pile of poop supplied more than enough food energy, the fungus has wrapped itself around the biochar and appears to be preferentially feeding from it or at the very least utilizing it as an ideal home base.
Biochar can act like a bank; it’s vast surface area can hold onto nutrients and charged compounds (credit), releasing them at a later time to organisms that pull hard enough (debit). In this case the biochar must have had something within it that the fungus could use. I guess you could say that the fungi is making a withdrawal from the biochar bank. That is part of what makes biochar so desirable as a soil component. While the biochar itself will resist decay for hundreds of years, it can help hold onto nutrients, enzymes, chemical compounds and such in a way that they are still biologically available.
- Josiah Hunt