Fungal-based soil remediation is a bioaugmentation technology that employs the pollutant-degrading abilities of a group of wood-decay fungi known as white-rot fungi (WRF). These fungi are naturally-occurring organisms that cause the decay of fallen trees and litter by degrading all of the major structural components of plant material (i.e., cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin). Research has shown that the biochemical processes used by WRF to degrade lignin are also involved in the degradation of a broad variety of organic chemicals.
Fungal-based soil remediation consists of amending the contaminated soil with a fungal inoculum at a predetermined rate of application. The inoculum/soil mixture is then treated in a forced-aeration biopile. Throughout the treatment, the pile temperature and moisture are closely monitored and regulated to provide conditions that best suit fungal growth and activity. The inoculum can either be prepared on site, a process that requires from 3 to 6 weeks, depending on ambient temperatures, or off site and delivered in a pelletized form. The inoculum consists of a pure culture of the selected WRF grown on a lignocellulosic substrate. A variety of inexpensive substrates (e.g., cottonseed hulls, sawdust, etc.) are used, depending on the fungal species. The best combination of fungal species, inoculum application rate, and type of inoculum are predetermined via bench- and pilot-scale tests.