GREAT AT SMALL THINGS

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BCCM/MUCL Agro-food & Environmental Fungal Collection

 

BCCM/MUCL develops and preserves the collection of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and filamentous fungi and yeasts related to environment, agriculture, industry or food.  We also maintain all associated information, facilitate its valorization and provide services to third parties. All medical and veterinary fungi are maintained by BCCM/IHEM.

Embedding

BCCM/MUCL is embedded in the Laboratory of Mycology, which is part of the Earth and Life Institute (ELI), in particular the Pole of Applied Microbiology (ELIM) of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain).

Keystone elements in the history of the Mycothèque de l’Université catholique de Louvain since its foundation in 1894 by Prof. P. Biourge at the Brewery High School of the Catholic University of Leuven include the discovery of Griseofulvin in 1939, the recognition of the collection by the World Federation of Culture Collections in 1972, the recognition as an international deposit authority for the deposit of fungal material in the framework of the Budapest treaty in 1992 and the ISO 9001 certification in 2005.

BCCM/MUCL research is mainly focused on the areas:

  • Fungal diversity in natural and anthropological ecosystems
  • Agro-food: food and feed transformation and spoilage
  • Fungal-plant interactions

Activities typically performed at BCCM/MUCL are oriented towards the

  • Identification, taxonomy and classification
  • Phylogenetic sequence analyses for gene and species evolution
  • Detection and cultivation
  • Preservation

of different fungal groups (lignocellulolytic fungi, fungi involved in food processing and spoilage,  fermentative yeasts, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, fungal pathogens in tropical environments).

 

Scope of the biological material

  • Fungal diversity of environmental, agricultural, industrial, and food significance.
  • Type, reference, and test strains.
  • Strains for use in fermented foods; biocontrol, biopesticides, biofertilisers and bioremediation; edible mushrooms; production of primary and secondary metabolites (i.e. antibiotics, enzymes and polysaccharides), etc.
  • Not accepted: animal and human pathogens mentioned in the European Union Directive 2000/54/EC and its updates. Concerning medically relevant fungi, please refer to BCCM/IHEM.

 

The collection holds over 30,000 strains of filamentous and yeast-like fungi, representing more than 5000 species and 1400 genera.

The mycological herbarium contains about 40,000 specimen.

BCCM/MUCL houses the Penicillium collections of P. Biourge (founder of the collection in 1892) and G.L. Hennebert, as well as the UCL brewery yeast collection.

 

Quality

Accession, control, preservation, storage and supply of BCCM/MUCL collection material and related information in the frame of public deposits, safe deposits and patent deposits are ISO 9001:2015 certified.

 

Fungal diversity in the Albertine rift region

Fungal diversity in the Albertine rift region

 

Context:

 

Following the recommendations of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, researchers from Universities in the Albertine Rift of Africa joined forces in 2013, setting up the network MycoRGL[1]. Its ambition is to study the Fungal diversity and its potential socio-economic valorization in- and ex-situ, for the benefit of the local populations, among others via an edible mushrooms sector.

The Albertine rift region (e.g. the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda), which is the western counterpart of the east African rift, is an internationally recognized  hotspot of biodiversity. This biodiversity and the local ecosystems are at the origin of ecosystem services, benefiting directly or indirectly to the populations. This region is also an area of ​​extreme poverty, aggravated by recurring conflicts, causing population displacement. This precarious and unstable socio-economic context is placing pressures on ecosystems that, despite their protection status, are overexploited, deteriorated and ultimately threatened.
Fungi are a major component of the biodiversity in terms of species and ecological roles. Some species are also edible (or medicinal), sought by the people who traditionally consider them as “food”. They also play a role in the local farmer economy, through a local market.
However, the taxonomic and functional diversity of Fungi in the Albertine rift ecosystems is still very poorly studied. Similarly, their nutritional and socio-economic values ​​are not objectified and no study has been conducted to evaluate their potential for the regional development of a domestication / ex situ production.
The current project, funded by ARES[2] for 5 years (2018-2022), in the frame of the PRD[3] program, builds on these statements, also posed by the Network of Mycologists of the Great Lakes Region, and relayed by local NGOs, highlighting the need to study this component of biodiversity to better understand the functioning of ecosystems, and to objectify these services in order to consider a reasoned in-situ exploitation and the creation of an ex-situ production chain.

 

Objective:

 

The objective of this project is to study the Mycota, placing an emphasis on the edible mushrooms, in several protected areas of the Albertine Rift, particularly in DRC, in terms of :

 
a) diversity (taxonomy, biology, ecology) 
b) nutritional value
c) potential for domestication
d) socio-economic importance of seasonal harvesting activities and controlled, sustainable, ex-situ production.

 
Through an integrated approach, the project aims at offering the protected area manager data on the Fungal diversity, and the population a choice of domesticated species, whose production will be controlled and economically viable. This objective will be achieved through trainings of field actors in conservation, PhD trainings and continuous training of academic staffs in the local Universities. By its regional dimension, involving researchers from DRC, Burundi and Rwanda, the project is part of the cross-border environmental policies for the protection of environment and the valorization of natural resources in a context of sustainable development.

 

Partnership:

 

The consortium joins teams in Belgium (Université catholique de Louvain, Université de Liège, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Botanical garden, in Meise), Democratic Republic of Congo (Universities of Goma and Bukavu), Rwanda (University of Rwanda, at Butare) and Burundi (Office Burundais de la Protection de l’Environnement), and Belgium).

 

Involvement:

 

BCCM/MUCL will focus its activities on the Fungal diversity in various ecosystems along altitudinal gradient in the Albertine Rift, emphasizing several groups of tree associated macromycetes playing important ecological functions in ecosystems, including, among other, the genus Armillaria, an important forest pathogen but also a pathogen of perennial crops.


 

 

 

[1] Mycologie dans les Régions des Grands Lacs

[2] Académie de Recherche et d’Enseignement Supérieur, Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles

[3] Projet de Recherche pour le Développement

A project by Uchrony