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Building Mycological Capacity for Sustainable Resource Management: Field work and training May 2015

During the 2nd week (10-16th) of the May trip to Lao, the project partners flew to the town of Phonsavan, north of Vientiane in Xieng Khouang province. The project also paid for two of the course participants from BEI to accompany us during this week to gain field experience in collecting fungi in the field. We were also joined by Neville Kilkenny, a freelance Mycological consultant from Edinburgh, Scotland. The plan for the week had been developed in collaboration with Ole Pedersen from the Agro-Biodiversity Project (ABP), Vientiane. ABP has local contacts in the province and they had arranged for visits to villages where a local would act as a guide to show us the forests where they collect fungi, in particular Matsutake. The latter is of particular interest because it is highly prized on the international market and there was concern that harvesting of this fungus may be threatening its survival. The field work also provided good opportunities to collect material for the proposed National collection of fungi from Lao that was started in the previous November visit. The group split into three with each sub-group going to a separate village each day. Each day consisted of travelling to the village, an excursion into the forest for a number of hours and then returning to the village where we were often fed by the family of the local guide. The late afternoon and evening were then spent working on preparing descriptions, identifying, recording and drying the material. A total of 15 villages were visited and 449 collections were made and identified as far as possible, with many accompanied with photographs. All metadata associated with the collections have been entered into the Excel spreadsheet already containing the data from Ole Pedersen’s Lao collections from previous years. This spreadsheet forms the basis of the National Lao Fungal collection.

The two staff from BEI worked closely with the project partners both in the field and in the evenings learning how to prepare short concise descriptions of field collected fungi, how to prepare different parts of the fungi for microscopical examination, how to take photographs, and how to dry and store the material.

In five of the villages, information was obtained about Matsutake. It became clear early on that the name is used in a broad sense as the species collected and sold in Xieng Khouang province  is not Tricholoma Matsutake, but a related species, possibly T. bakumatsutake. The exactly identity of the fungus awaits confirmation from molecular data. No evidence was found that the villagers were harvesting the fungi in an unsustainable manner. Quite the opposite in fact, with the villagers usually having a good awareness that the fungi, and many others they collect, were intimately associated with, and dependent on, particular tree species.

Research

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.