The lack of food, along with climate change, is the biggest problem the human race is facing in this era. With its effect on agricultural production, climate change itself generates inhospitable conditions that constitute a threat to food security.
According to the UN estimate, between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020, and around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030.
Now, scientists have come up with an idea that could help solve these two problems with the same method: growing mushrooms alongside trees.
Also Read | Global Food Crisis Will Drive Record Displacement Levels Higher: UN
According to a recent study by scientists at the University of Stirling, edible fungi may present a significant potential to make foods high in protein and store more carbon in soils while also extending tree plantings.
As per a release by the University of Stirling, "There is currently a significant global issue of land-use conflict between forestry and food production and, as a result, net loss of forest area remains high at some 4.7 million hectares per year, according to data for 2010 to 2020. Demand for agricultural land is the biggest driver of global deforestation, and this is forecast to accelerate."
According to study conducted by Professor Paul Thomas, an honorary professor at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Stirling, the growth of edible ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) in forests can sequester up to 12.8 metric tons of carbon per hectare each year while also providing nearly 19 million people with a wholesome food source.
"We looked at the emerging field of mycoforestry, where fungi that grow in symbiosis with living trees are used to create a food crop from new tree plantings, and we found that production of fungi using this system can lead to a very significant sequestration of greenhouse gases," Professor Thomas said.
"This is a huge benefit, which means that by producing this food, we can actively help mitigate climate change. When we compared this to other major food groups, this is the only one that would result in such benefits-all other major food categories lead to greenhouse gas emissions during production. We calculate that if this system was combined with current forest activities, the food production levels could be huge. If it had been used in the forestry that has taken place during the last ten years, we could have produced enough food to feed 18.9 million people annually," he added.
"For China alone, their forestry activity for the last ten years could have put in place a food production system capable of enough calorific output to feed 4.6 million people annually."