Fungi constitute an entire kingdom among the flora of Earth and include about 144,000 species of organism known to humans. It implies that there might be more undiscovered species of fungi present on Earth. These are neither plants nor animals, but not as simple as bacteria either. One prominent characteristic of fungi is that they have a eukaryotic cell membrane which makes them complex species.
Fungi are of 4 main types with unique and complex characteristics. Molds, rust, smut, yeast, and mushrooms are included in this kingdom.
Role of Fungi in our lives:
Fungi provide many benefits to all living organisms, including plants, animals, and humans. In the following section, we will see their role in different fields of our world.
Fungi work as decomposers and break down the complex and difficult-to-digest organic matter into the smaller and easily digestible matter. This, in turn, provides many other organisms with nutrition. The fungus also increases the soil’s water-holding capacity by holding the soil particles together. This creates stable soil aggregates that have proved to be very beneficial. Fungi also have proven to increase the availability of phosphorus to plants.
Fungi provide many extracellular enzymes, and their ability to regulate carbon and nutrient level in the soil has played a massive role in agriculture. In farmlands, fungal activity helps grow plants by 70%. Fungi also contribute to the process of degeneration of plant and animal matter.
Fungi find an important place in the industry as well. Species of this kingdom are used to produce vitamins, enzymes, pigments, lipids, glycolipids, polysaccharides, polyhydric alcohols, etc. Recombinant DNA technology uses yeasts and other fungi as hosts have improved the market for microbial enzymes.
- Food Industry:
Yeast is used for the fermentation of wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages. It is also used for the production of many kinds of cheese along with other fungi species. Filamentous fungi are used for food processing as these are the primary source of enzymes. These also enhance the quality of the final product.
Mushrooms are frequently used in many dishes. These are eaten because of their nutritional value, taste, and medicinal benefits. These provide us with antioxidants, proteins, and high calories.
- Lion’s mane mushrooms:
Yamabushitake or lion’s mane mushroom is a white, sizeable shaggy mushroom that looks like a lion’s mane as it grows. It is known for its medicinal and culinary purposes in Asian countries such as Japan, China, Korea, and India.
This mushroom has bioactive substances which are beneficial for the gut, heart, brain, and body. Apart from these, lion mane’s mushroom is also known for protection against dementia, helpful for depression and anxiety, and speedy recovery from nervous system injuries. It is also beneficial for stomach and other digestive issues.
- Reishi Mushroom:
This mushroom grows in many hot and humid areas in Asia. In Eastern medicine, it has been a staple for a long time because it boosts the immune system, has anti-cancer properties, helpful for depression and fatigue, and helps in sleeping. It can be used in powdered form as well as consumed fresh.
The majority of fungi have benefits for humans and serve us in various ways. Thank you for reading!