Cortinarius aff. campbellae TAS5-PSC4363 v1.0
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Cortinarius aff. campbellae TAS5-PSC4363
Cortinarius aff. campbelliae. Sectioned fruit body and culture growing on 1/5 dilution of PDA supplemented with B group vitamins. Scale is in millimetres, images by David Catcheside.

Cortinarius is a large genus of fungi containing both mushroom and truffle-like species, most of which form ectomycorrhizal associations with trees. Cortinarius aff. campbelliae forms this symbiotic link with Eucalyptus nitens, a quick-growing tree used extensively in forestry plantations. The fungus forms a sock-like envelope (mantle) around roots and the hyphae interpenetrate between plant cells forming a Hartig net where plant carbon from photosynthesis is exchanged for phosphorus, nitrogen and water. The fine mycelial strands of the fungus can access supplies of water and minerals from locations in substrates denied to the thicker plant roots. This symbiosis makes C. aff. campbelliae one of those fungi indispensable for health of plantations of E. nitens, a tree with potential as an energy crop. The lignocellulose of E. nitens timber can be used as a feedstock for processes under development that use other fungi to produce fuel ethanol. C. aff. campbelliae is a truffle-like fungus dependent on being eaten by small mammals for the dispersal of its spores, a lifestyle that is adaptive in a dry climate as it reduces desiccation, an inherent risk for fungi with emergent fruiting bodies that scatter spores by wind. The genome of C. aff. campbelliae will help reveal how truffle-like species evolved from closely related mushroom-like Cortinarius species by comparing genomes of taxa with different fruitbody forms. Given current predictions of a drying climate, understanding pathways to this adaptation and how to manipulate them genetically may be crucial for managing the health of future forestry energy plantations. C. aff. campbelliae is particularly favourable for such initiatives as, unlike most mycorrhizal fungi, it can be grown in pure culture on agar plates.