Lightning Fuels Mushroom Growth

New research has revealed that mushrooms and some vegetables multiply rapidly when struck by lightning.

For generations, Japanese farmers have welcomed storms over their fields based on the belief that lightning strikes provoke plentiful harvests of mushrooms, which are staples of Japanese cuisine. Currently, mushroom demand is so high that dealers are increasingly turning to foreign suppliers. Japan imports about 50,000 tons of mushrooms a year, mainly from China and South Korea.

As part of a four-year study, scientists in northern Japan have been bombarding a variety of mushrooms in lab-based garden plots with artificially induced lightning to see if electricity actually makes the fungi multiply. The latest findings show that lightning-strength jolts of electricity can more than double the yield of certain mushroom species compared with conventional cultivation methods.

"We have tried these experiments with ten types of mushroom so far and have found that it is effective in eight species," said Koichi Takaki, an associate professor in engineering at Iwate University.

Takaki's team has also started similar experiments on daikon radishes, with early tests indicating that the species tends to bud earlier when exposed to artificial lightning. Lightning tests are being conducted at other institutions on rapeseed plants, beans, and some varieties of lily, Takaki added.

Reports do not state whether Takaki’s team has conducted lightning experiments on mushrooms of the psilocybe genus…