This work applies to remediation and restoration of soil contaminated by fuel, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) wastes, etc. While there can be a beneficial effect of microbial communities, individual plant-fungus combinations can vary in their efficacy in removing pollutants from the environment. Having a set of enzymes from fungi specifically adapted to conditions in contaminated soil is a huge advantage.

This work addresses ectomycorrhizal (EM)-mediated remediation of phenolic-based contamination through use of specific plant-fungal combinations that are specifically adapted to conditions created by phenolic application to soils and the abilities of EM fungi to oxidize these compounds. It increases in activity five-fold when the host tree is partially defoliated, which in turn imparts an increase in phenolic oxidation in soil by a similar amount.

EM fungi impart resistance to soil extremes such as high temperature, high acidity, and heavy metal contamination. The method provides fast response, high selectivity, enhances naturally occurring species’ abilities to decontaminate the soil, and is a flexible platform. Applications include the oil and gas industry, cleanup of fuel spills, habitat restoration, and land remediation.

This work was done by Kenneth Cullings of Ames Research Center, and Julia Hanely of USRA. NASA invites companies to inquire about partnering opportunities. Contact the Ames Technology Partnerships Office at 1-855-627-2249 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to ARC-16707-1.