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the earth star fungus at Kew Gardens’ fungarium.—AP
the earth star fungus at Kew Gardens’ fungarium.—AP

LONDON: The scientists at the renowned Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are trying to correct an injustice: They don’t believe fungus gets the respect it deserves.

That’s one reason behind the release on Wednesday of their “State of the World’s Fungi ” report, touted as the first ever global look at the way fungi help provide food, medicine, plant nutrition, lifesaving drugs and can also spread death and destruction at an alarming pace.

The focus on fungi is designed to call attention to potentially vital new uses now being studied including possible deployment of a fungus that “eats” plastic and degrades it quickly, and one that may clean up radioactive waste and to warn that climate change is threatening fungi habitat in various parts of the Earth.

Director of Science Katherine Willis says researchers know relatively little about fungi many of them hidden beneath the ground, or invisible to the naked eye, or living in a plant’s cells even though fungus has been used to ferment food and drink for more than 9,000 years.

“We have only just started to scratch the surface of knowledge of this incredible and diverse group of organisms,” she said.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018