How Fungi Make Nutrients Available to the World

A recent article by the US Department of Energy reviews research and breakthroughs in biotechnology related to the conversion of woody biomass residues to useful bioproducts and biofuels. Professor Barry Goodell’s research in the UMass Microbiology department is discussed along with that of several other leading researchers in the field. Goodell’s work has led to the discovery on a unique, and highly efficient, non-enzymatic mechanism that fungi use to deconstruct wood.

Like most of us, trees don't want to be eaten alive.
 
To prevent this gruesome fate, they developed extremely tough cell walls around 400 million years ago. For millions of years, nothing could break down lignin, the strongest substance in those cell walls. When a tree died, it just sank into the swamp where it grew. When the fossil record started showing trees breaking down around 300 million years ago, most scientists assumed it was because the ubiquitous swamps of the time were drying up. Read more...