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Economic Importance of Fungi Notes

In this economic importance of fungi notes post we have briefly explained about economic importance of fungi medicine, industry, food product, agriculture’s (positive and negative roles) and agriculture.

Hundreds of species of fungi exist, all of which are economically significant to humans. In truth, we are inextricably related to the life of fungi. There isn’t a day that goes by when we aren’t benefitted or hurt in some way by these organisms.

They are significant in medicine because they produce antibiotics, in agriculture because they maintain soil fertility and cause crop and fruit illnesses, forming basis of many industries, and as a source of food. Some fungi are useful research tools in the study of biological processes at the molecular level.

Molds and yeasts, in particular, have a detrimental function by spoiling stored commodities such as foodstuffs, textiles, leather, rubber, plastic, wood, and even glass.

Economic Importance of Fungi Notes


Some fungi create compounds that help in the treatment of disorders caused by harmful bacteria. Antibiotics are the name for these drugs.

As a result, an antibiotic is an organic molecule produced by a microbe that inhibits the growth of other germs. Molds, actinomycetes, and bacteria create the most significant antibiotics.

They are employed in the fight against harmful bacteria and viruses. Antibiotics are used for more than only treating diseases.

The inclusion of certain antibiotics in the feed of slaughter animals in tiny amounts promotes rapid growth and improves the quality of the meat products. The use of an antibiotic on the surface of freshly slain poultry helps to keep the flavour of the meat fresh for longer lengths of time.


The development of antibiotics as medications is a relatively recent event. Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the role of fungi in creating antibiotic compounds in 1929.

Penicillin, the renowned antibacterial medicine, was derived from Penicillium notatum. It was the first commonly used antibiotic. Penicillin is an antibiotic that kills bacteria. It outperforms conventional medicines and germicides by a wide margin.

It has little effect on human protoplasm, but it kills bacteria, particularly those of the gram-positive variety. Penicillin is currently commercially produced all throughout the world.


Other antibiotics were discovered as a result of this research. Streptomycin is one of these. Streptomycin is made from the fungus Streptomyces griseus. It is quite useful in medicine. It kills numerous organisms that are resistant to penicillin, especially gram-negative bacteria. Antibiotics have been isolated from Aspergillus cells as well. These, however, have not been shown to be as effective as penicillin.

Other antibiotics

Many antibiotics, including Chloromycetin, Aureomycin, Terramycin, and others, are derived from actinomycetes, which are not true filamentous organisms.

They effectively limit the growth of many dangerous bacteria and are also used to treat a variety of viral illnesses. Aureomycin efficiently cures a wide range of animal and human infections that are resistant to other antibiotics.

Some Myxogastres species have been shown to produce soluble antibiotics in their plasmodia. In culture, they inhibit the growth of some bacteria and yeasts. Antibiotics are also useful in the fight against plant diseases.

Griseofulvin is an antifungal compound found in the mycelium of Penicillium griseofulvum and allied species. It affects the hyphae by interfering with the production of walls. As a result, the hyphal tips curl and stop growing.

It is absorbed into the body when taken orally and accumulates in the keratinized tissues of the epidermis and hair. As a result, it’s helpful against fungal skin infections including ringworms and athlete’s foot.


Fungi have a wide range of industrial applications. In reality, economic importance of economic importance of fungi are at the heart of a slew of important industries. There are a variety of industrial processes that take advantage of the biochemical activity of some fungus.


It is the foundation of two major industries around the world. Brewing and baking are two of them. Both rely on the fact that yeasts make ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide when they ferment sugar solutions.

In brewing or wine making industry alcohol is the important product. The other by-product which is carbon dioxide was formerly allowed to escape as a useless thing.

Now carbon dioxide is also considered a valuable by-product. It is collected, solidified and sold as “dry ice”. In the baking or bread- making industry CO2 is the useful product.

The other by-product, alcohol, is just coincidental. The enzyme complex zymase is secreted by yeasts and is responsible for the conversion of sugar to alcohol. There are numerous great yeast strains accessible presently.

Diastase is absent in yeast. As a result, they are unable to convert starch to sugar. Molds are a group of fungus that are commonly referred to as moulds. They secrete a wide spectrum of enzymes, which cause complicated carbohydrate fermentation.

Alcohol moulds are used as starters in the production of industrial alcohol to scarify the starch. Yeast is used in the second stage to act on the sugar.

Although mould can finish the sugar conversion, the yield is improved when yeast is used during the second stage. Mucor racemosus is a mould that is widely used for scarification.


Takamine on the basis of his intensive study of the enzymes produced by Aspergillus flavus-oryzae series has introduced in the market a few products of high enzymic activity. These are Digestin, Polyzime, Taka diastase, etc. They are used for dextrinization of starch and desiring of textiles.

Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus oryzae cultures on moist, sterile bran trays produce a well-known amylase with two starch breaking components.

Saccharoymces cerevisiae is used to make invertase. It has a wide range of industrial applications. It breaks down sucrose into a glucose and fructose.

Organic acids

Oxalic acid, citric acid, gluconic acid, gallic acid, fumaric acid, and other significant organic acids are commercially manufactured as a result of mould biochemical activity.

Aspergillus niger produces oxalic acid as a byproduct of fermentation. Mold fermentation produces citric acid. For this reason, a variety of Penicillium species are utilized. The acid is manufactured on a large scale and is less expensive than citrus-derived acid.

Sugars are used to make gluconic acid. Penicillium and Aspergillus species are the most commonly used moulds for this purpose.


The fungus Gibberella fujikuroi produces plant hormones that induce a rice disease characterised by aberrant elongation. Gibberellin is a hormone that is used to speed up the growth of a variety of horticulture plants.


In the refinement of cheese, some fungus known as cheese moulds plays a vital role. They contribute to the texture and flavour of cheese. The two chief kinds of mould refined cheese are: (a) Camembert and Brie types. They are soft. (b) Roquefort Gorgonzola and Stilton types. 

They are cheeses with green or blue veins. The moulds concerned are Penicillium camemberti and P.caseicolum in the first type and P.roqueforti in the second type.


Some economic importance of fungi, particularly yeasts, are used to generate proteins as a complement to a normal diet. The yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida utilis) contain high percentage of protein of great nutritive value.

They are produced with ammonia as a nitrogen source and molasses as a carbon source. Food Yeast is the name of the manufactured product. It contains 15% protein and vitamins from the B group.


The best source of vitamin B complex is yeast. Several high-potency treatments have been created from dry yeast or yeast extracts and offered on the market.

Ergosterol, which contains Vitamin D, is synthesised using a variety of moulds and yeasts. Riboflavin is derived by Ashby gossypii, a filamentous yeast that is important in both human and animal diet.


Fungi are important decomposers in most ecosystems. In agriculture, economic importance of fungi have both a harmful and a positive role.

Negative Role

They have a negative value since they cause a variety of diseases in our crops, fruits, and other commercial plants. These fungal diseases have a high mortality rate and result in significant economic losses.

Approximately 30 thousand distinct illnesses (including bacterial and viral infections) harm economic plants raised for food or commercial purposes, according to a conservative estimate.

(i) Damping off disease

The seedlings of almost every type of plant grown as a commercial crop such as tomatoes, com, cotton, mustard, peas, beans, tobacco, spinach, etc., are prone to this disease. It is caused by a species of Pythium.

(ii) The potato blight

Late blight of potatoes is another destructive crop disease. It does a great damage to the potato tubers. A heavy attack of this disease in Ireland in 1845 destroyed the entire potato crop and caused so severe a famine that over a million Irish people migrated to U.S.A. Besides potatoes, it infects egg plants, tomatoes, etc.

(iii) Downy mildews of grapes

It ruins the vine yards and thus causes heavy losses to the crop. When the disease was first introduced into France from U.S.A, it caused a havoc to the vine yards.

Almost all the French vine yards were destroyed before Bordeaux mixture, which proved an effective fungicide against this disease, was discovered.

(iv) Ergot disease of rye

It is an important disease of a cereal crop rye. It results in the formation of poisonous sclerotia in the rye kernel. It is called ergot of rye. Ergot is highly poisonous to man. Ergot poisoning causes hallucinations, insanity and finally death.

Positive Role

Some soil fungus are useful in agriculture because they help to keep the soil fertile. Saprophytic fungi, particularly in acid soils where bacterial activity is low, produce disintegration and decomposition of plant dead bodies and wastes by secreting enzymes that take up complex organic molecules (cellulose and lignin).

Enzymes break down fatty carbohydrate and nitrogenous ingredients into simpler chemicals like carbon dioxide, water, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and so on.

Some of these return to the soil to form humus, and the rest to the atmosphere, where they might be used as a raw material for food synthesis once again. In the soil, fungus produce more ammonia from proteins than ammonia-producing bacteria.

Furthermore, many saprophytic decay fungi keep the carbon dioxide cycle going, which is the most crucial raw material for plant photosynthesis in nature.

They also cause animal and plant remains to rot, disintegrate, and decompose, releasing plant nutrients in a form that green plants may use as sustenance. Many inorganic salts are used by soil fungus.

Leaching is prevented from removing them from the soil. Some fungi create mycorrhizal associations with the roots of plants, assisting them in nourishment.

Only when the mycelium of the proper fungus companion is present in the soil can such plants grow satisfactorily. The living fungal cell material in fertile soil is twice as abundant as the material from bacteria and other soil microbes.

Gibberella fujikuroi produces giberrrelin, a growth hormone that helps plants grow faster. Fungi like Empusa sepulchrasis, Metarrhizium anisopliae, Cordyceps melothac, and others can help reduce insect infestations.

Some common soil fungi aid in the fight against diseases caused by soil-borne fungi. In moist soils, Trichoderma lignorum and Gliocladium fimbriatum can be found. They have an inhibiting effect on Pythium mycelium growth.

They work by suppressing the fungi that cause seedling damping off and influencing crop growth in a positive way.

Food Producers

Many species of economic importance of fungi are edible, about 2000 species of them have been reported from all over the world. Of these, about 200 are said to occur in the Western Himalayas.

Many edible economic importance of fungi are of great economic value as food. They are regarded as delicacies of the table. There are said to be over 200 species of edible fungi.

The fructifications of some economic importance of fungi such as the field mushroom Agaricus campestris (dhingri), Podaxon podaxis (Khumb), the honey coloured mushrooms, the fairy ring mushrooms, the puff balls (Lycoperdon and Clavatia), morels (Morchella, guchhi), and truffles are edible.

The content of available food in them is not high but they supply vitamins and are valuable as appetisers. Yeasts and some filamentous economic importance of fungi are valuable sources of vitamins of the B-complex.

A few of the mushrooms are fatally poisonous, some cause only discomfort. To the former category belong Amanita.

The economic importance of fungi are also important as producers of foodstuffs. Certain species of Penicillium are active in the refining of certain kind of cheeses. Some economic importance of fungi, such as red bread mold, Neurospora sitophila and others, complete their sexual life cycle in a few days and thus make ideal organisms for the study of the laws of heredity.

The slime molds (Physarum polycephalum) are now widely used in research. P. polycephalum has proved an excellent experimental organism for the study of DNA synthesis, meiotic cycle and the mechanism of protoplasmic streaming.

Many economic importance of fungi are responsible for spoilage of food stuffs. Penicillium digitatum causes rotting of citrus fruits. Milk and milk products are spoiled and made unfit for human use due to the growth of several fungi such as Mucor, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Oidium and Fusarium Mucor mucedo and spp. of Aspergillus grow on bread and spoil it. Oidium lactis develops the fishy odour of butter causing damage to the butter.

In tropical conditions, many economic importance of fungi such as Mucor sp., Penicillium, Neurospora, Fusarium, Aspergillus etc., grow on meat causing sufficient spoilage.

Aflatoxins the most potent carcinogenic agent-are produced by Aspergillus flavus, A.fumigatus, A.parasiticus and Penicillium islandicum on dried foods and groundnut meal.

Aflatoxins are reported to bind with DNA and prevent its transcription arresting protein synthesis. These are responsible for liver cancer in animals and human beings. Mushroom toxins are produced by several poisonous mushrooms. These cause diarrhoea vomiting, liver damage, complete unconsciousness etc. Mushroom toxins are commonly produced by Amanita phalloides, spp. of Helvella and some species of Inocybe.

Ergot toxins produced by Claviceps purpurea contain poisonous alkaloids like ergotamine, ergometrimine, ergocrystinine, ergocrystinine and ergonovin. These cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting and psychiatric disturbances.

Test Organism

During the last two decades, the economic importance of fungi has been used to test various biological .processes. Since they grow very fast and require a short period to complete their life cycles, the economic importance of fungi are best suited for use as test organisms.

Economic importance of fungi form very good research material for genetical studies and other biological processes Genus Neurospora has become very good material for genetic studies while Physarum polycephalum is used to study steps in DNA synthesis, morphogenesis and mitotic cycle.

To detect the presence and quantity of vitamin B in given sample, Neurospora crassa is commonly used. Similarly Aspergillus niger is used for detection of trace elements like zinc, nickel and copper even when they are present in very minute quantities.

Further Readings