Department of Biological Sciences seminar


The Winter Mushroom (Flammulina velutipes), Cultivation, Research and Genetics

Professor Arend Van Peer, distinguished professor at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, College of Life Sciences.

Abstract: Mushrooms or toadstools can be considered to be the "fruits" of fungi, a fact that is reflected by another common name for these structures: fruiting bodies. Fruiting bodies constitute by far the most complex structures that are formed by fungi, and mushroom development involves a series of temporal and spatially separated morphogenetic steps. Several of these steps are closely interacting with environmental factors. Prior to mushroom formation, colonies of different genetic signature will need to “mate” in order to produce a fertile mycelium. Only then the right environmental conditions will trigger initiation of mushroom formation.

Unfortunately, knowledge of mushroom forming fungi has remained underdeveloped compared to plants, animals and other microorganisms. This is partly due to their relative complexity, and partly due to a long standing underestimation of their importance. Recent events have been changing this. Mushrooms are increasingly being recognised as important sources for medicine, health stimulating products, and food. This has stimulated modern mushroom cultivation methods that are characterised by very large scale and high-tech production facilities. In addition, cultivation of mushrooms offers attractive options for recycling of agricultural waste. Meanwhile, the new availability of advanced molecular genetic tools for mushroom forming species now allows a thorough exploration of their biology and potential applications.

Flammulina velutipes is one of the most popular mushrooms in South-East Asia and is cultivated both for food and medicinal uses. It can easily be propagated under laboratory conditions, has become genetically accessible, and responds to a range of environmental factors. We have adopted this mushroom as our model to study the initial stages that lead to mushroom formation; the transition from a sterile mycelium to a fertile mycelium.