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


  1. Whoa! This is so cool. (Great shot btw). Considering that mushrooms are 90% water by weight, I bet this little guy was stoked to a labyrinth of water holding pores that it could source, all the while pulling vital nutrients. Those rhizomorphs look so nice when on the black background of biochar. Great stuff man! Keep it coming! How’s that for a rhizosphere?

  2. Nicely done Josiah, I have heard many good things about you from Jeff. This just show he has reason to be a fan of yours. Great picture. Great description.

    Best, Henry


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *