By Jesse Frost of The Atlantic
The “weapon” to which he’s referring is secondary metabolites––finely calibrated compounds that mushrooms and other organisms produce as defenses against dangerous microbes. What caught Cotter’s attention wasn’t the metabolites themselves, but that these metabolites were being created in an regulable environment. If he could “sweat this fungus out” against a variety of other molds, he realized, he might be able to produce shields for his other mushrooms from a whole range of attackers.
So he did just that: He started matching metabolite-producing fungi in his lab with the most common contaminates––wild fungi that often cost him thousands a year in ruined product. He then used the resulting metabolites to “clean” his growing media––like a natural, pre emergent fungicide. And it worked. The secondary metabolites kept pesky contaminates at bay, allowing Cotter to better culture his fungi for his business.
Read more at theatlantic.com