The Effect of Oyster Mushrooms on Oil in Soil

2012 Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair

The abstract below was written by the student. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District made no editorial changes.

The Effect of Oyster Mushrooms on Oil in Soil

by Emma C. Dodd, Herndon High School


This experiment was conducted to determine the efficacy of using mycelium to break down oil contaminants in soil. If this treatment proved to be effective, it could become an efficient and inexpensive method of soil remediation. To test this concept, four fifty-pound units of organic garden soil, three of which were contaminated with 1,500 parts per million of diesel fuel (measured as Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons, or TPH), were set up outside, though under a second-story deck for some protection, and monitored over seven weeks. Two of the contaminated units were inoculated with the mycelium of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), while the other contaminated unit and one uncontaminated unit served as controls. Soil samples were taken from each unit at weeks 0, 3, 5 and 7, and were sent to a lab for testing. While mushroom growth was observed, there was no significant change in the petroleum levels of any of the units. Naturally occurring and practically undetectable seeds were discovered in the soil when they sprouted in all four units. The sprouts in the uncontaminated units grew well. Most spouts in the contaminated units died, though they may have fared slightly better in the treated units. Upon further research, it was discovered that a similar, larger scale study had been conducted and yielded very similar results. That information further supports the conclusion that mushroom mycelium has no effect on petroleum contaminants in soil and would not be an effective form of soil remediation.

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