The Economic Importance of Fungi
The Kingdom of fungi have some of the most important organisms ecologically and economically. Economically they contribute to many different industries such as the food and medical industries . Although there are many fungi that are useful to use there are some that are harmful and cause disease such as Trichophyton spp. which causes athlete’s foot and ringworm in humans.
There are many areas in the food industry where fungi are used. Many mushrooms are edible for humans and those species that are cultivated for sale worldwide. Fungi are also widely used in the production of many foods and drinks, the main being cheese, beer, wine and bread. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the binomial name given to yeast, which is a fungi used in brewing, baking and wine making. In brewing yeast is added to the cooled wort in the fermenting vessel. The yeast is initially exposed to high oxygen levels so they can divide, but then conditions become anaerobic and the yeast converts the sugars to ethanol and carbon dioxide. After this the yeast is filtered out leaving beer, but the yeast can be reused to inoculate the next batch or sold for products such as Marmite, yeast extract. Cheese is another example of food that requires fungi to be produced. In the process of making cheese two fungi are used; Penicillium roquefortii and Penicillium camembertii, these are used to help the cheese ripen. Examples of these cheeses are Danish Blue, Roquefort and blue Stilton. A new use of fungi in food is the production of mycoprotein or commonly known as quorn. Quorn is an alternative meat eaten by vegetarians made by a growing species of fungus, Fusarium ATCC 20334.
Fungi are vitally important for the good growth of most plants, including crops, through the development of mycorrhizal associations. As plants are at the base of most food chains, if their growth was limited, all animal life, including human, would be seriously reduced through starvation. The...
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