Mitigating on-farm toxins using fungi: a case study on two farms.

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $19,881.00
Projected End Date: 01/01/2021
Host Institution Award ID: G333-20-W7900
Grant Recipient: TurkeyTail Farm
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Christopher Tchudi
TurkeyTail Farm

Information Products


  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, toxic status mitigation

    Proposal summary:

    With an ever changing climate and new forms of contamination entering our air, water and soil - innovation is crucial to the success of our food system going forward. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the ability of fungi to remediate environmental toxins on-farm. Environmental pollutants and toxins present a threat to the food stream.  This study examines the feasibility of reducing/eliminating soil borne toxins on-farm using fungi. Two different vectors of toxins will be examined in two model systems: those found on a farm transitioning from conventional-to-organic agriculture and a farm that has suffered damage from a natural disaster, specifically wildfire. Both of these farms are dealing with potential sources of toxins: the transitional-to-organic farm has potential glyphosate and organophosphates in the soil, while the fire affected farm has potential heavy metals, dioxins, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the soil. Fungi have demonstrated the ability to mitigate these toxins through immobilization, hyperaccumulation and biodegradation much faster then natural attenuation. This California based study will occur over the period of 7 months, and provide quantifiable data on the reduction of pollutants over the duration of the study by utilizing fungal remediation techniques.

    This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of fungal based bioremediation and provide real-world/en-vivo evidence for functions that have been achieved at the laboratory level. Several forms of media will be employed for Educational Outreach. Dissemination of results and techniques will be carried out through field days, online media, press releases, presentations/slideshows, and radio/podcasts.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of fungi to remediate environmental pollutants in two model systems. The first is an organic-transitional vegetable farm, the second a forest-fire affected ranch. 

    In the organic-transitional vegetable farm model, this study will demonstrate the ability of fungi to break down pesticide residues in soils. The GRUB CSA farm is in the process of transitioning acreage from conventional walnut production, a field historically treated with weed suppressant and insecticides, to organic vegetable production. 

    Sample plots will be tested for organophosphates before and after treatment. This will provide a quantifiable results for pesticide reduction.

    In the fire-affected ranch, areas of potential contamination will be targeted (specifically a burned shed and location of burned vehicles). These sites will be tested for heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (benzene, dioxin, PAH). These sites will then receive fungal treatments and be retested to demonstrate rate of uptake and remediation.

    These two study sites in combination will provide a comprehensive view of fungal bioremediation on the farm. Application of innovate techniques will serves as a demonstration site for other farmers and ranchers, and provide a replicable model that can be employed elsewhere.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.