Mikro-Tek – Harnessing the Power of Fungi to Helping Reforestation

Chile, a country I know well, is one of the most developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere but an astonishing two-thirds of the country is affected or threatened by desertification and drought. Of the 1.3 million people inhabiting the most affected areas, approximately 60% live in poverty. The trees in these areas were cut down for wheat production between the 1850’s and 1970s. Without the forest cover the soul eroded and the land degraded creating massive areas that are unproductive and liable to flooding and drought.

An innovative partnership between Canadian biotech company Mikro-Tek and the Chilean Forestry Department, using fungi, is changing this. Mycorrhizae are fungi that work symbiotically with trees. The fungi grow on the trees’ roots, encouraging the formation of larger, healthier root systems, enabling plants to absorb additional nutrients and moisture from the soil. In exchange the host trees provide the fungi with energy in the form of carbohydrates from photosynthesis.

Growth data collected from 1,000,000 field planted seedlings showed average increases in growth and survival of up to 83% due to Mycorrhizae inoculation.

There are multiple positive benefits:

·      These faster growing and healthier trees are helping in carbon sequestration.

·      The project has stabilized soil, reducing the risks of flooding and erosion.

·      There is increased biodiversity and species habitat in the newly planted forests.

·       There are significant economic benefits for the local population. Carbon finance facilitates loans for local farmers to do the initial planting and approximately 6000 hectares have been planted so far working with 25 small and medium sized farmers. These share the net profits from the sale of carbon credits with the project developers and make money from non-timber forest products such as honey production, herbal cheese, mushrooms and charcoal.

It’s a joy to encounter a project like this where the wisdom and creativity of nature is being tapped to address the damage we have done to the natural world. It’s a reminder to heed Einstein’s words “Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better”.

This project was the winner of the natural biodiversity project of the year at the #Edie Sustainable Leaders Award 2022. Here’s what the judges had to say “This project is restoring degraded land, which represents a critical breakthrough for our future. The project is highly innovative and has driven clear results in terms of environmental and social impact, backed up by external validation.”

This is the eleventh in a year-long series of weekly blogs by Jean Callanan telling stories of businesses and brands that are doing inspiring and innovative things in addressing #climatechange and creating a better world. Read the background thinking and the stories of Knorr Future 50 FoodsAn PostGood on YouNotplaLow Carbon Materials , Wren Urban Nest Dublin,  Companies Helping us Reduce the Energy and Money we Pour Down the Drain  Allbirds and Domestos – doubling sales while giving millions access to toilets.