Outside of Remy in Ratatouille, we have not considered the intersection of mushrooms and lightning, but the rat was on to something. In Japan, farming folklore that suggested that lightning made mushrooms grow faster; now scientists have tested the theory and found that it is true. Koichi Takaki of Iwate University has been zapping mushrooms with high voltage and almost doubled the crop.
Photograph from Koichi Takaki via National Geographic
Physorg describes the results:
The experiments showed mushrooms react best when exposed to a ten-millionth of a second burst of electricity at 50-100,000 volts. Under the best conditions the nameko yield was 80% greater than the untreated control crop, while the shiitake crop yield doubled.
Another scientist, Yuichi Sakamoto, explains in National Geographic why he thinks this is an evolutionary reaction:
"For mushrooms, a lightning strike would be a very serious threat that could easily kill them off," Sakamoto said. "I think they have the need to regenerate before they die, and when they sense lightning, they automatically accelerate their development" and produce more fruiting bodies."
Are mushrooms that sophisticated?
More in Physorg
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How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms
MushroomExpert.com: Online Advice on Fungi and Mushrooms
Japanese Mushrooms Found To Yield Natural Rubber