Ep. 57: Secondary Metabolites, Mycotoxins & Fungi in Food Systems (feat. Professor Tom Volk)

Today on Mushroom Hour we have the humbling privilege to speak with Tom Volk, Professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Specializing in Mycology and Forest Pathology, Tom teaches courses on Mycology, Medical Mycology, Plant-Microbe Interactions, Food & Industrial Mycology, Advanced Mycology, Organismal Biology and Latin & Greek for Scientists. His website, Tom Volk's Fungi has a popular "Fungus of the Month" feature, and an extensive introduction to Queendom Fungi. Besides dabbling in mushroom cultivation, Tom has worked intimately with the genera Morchella, Cantharellus, Hydnellum, Armillaria and Laetiporus, a lineup of edible varieties that will make every forager’s mouth water. He has also embarked on several medical mycology projects, investigations into prairie mycorrhizae, mycoprospecting, and fungi that are involved in coal formation. He also has conducted fungal biodiversity studies in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alaska, and Israel. Having lectured in 35 states so far, Tom is a popular speaker at many amateur and professional mycological events throughout North America, including NAMA and NEMF forays. Not the least of his accolades, Tom was named President of the Mycology Society of America in 2017.

Topics Covered:

  • An Obsession with Mycology is born
  • Forest Pathology
  • Primary & Secondary Metabolites
  • Evolutionary Origins of Metabolites
  • Mycotoxins
  • Aflatoxin
  • Is Organic Produce More Susceptible to Mycotoxins?
  • Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium
  • Future of Mycelium-based foods
  • Lifecycle of Morel Mushrooms
  • Medicinal Compounds in Mushrooms
  • Citizen Mycology
  • Mycology in Academia
  • Fungi in Coal Formations

Episode Resources:


  • Tom mentions USDA research regarding peanuts, corn, and grains, but skips USDA research on controlling aflatoxin molds on nut trees and figs in California, and doesn’t mention two methods of control that have shown real promise. First, very aggressive strains of atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus can be sprayed on crops to out compete the toxigenic strains, and second yeasts such as Pichia anomala can be sprayed on crops with the same effect of out competing Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.

    James Baker
  • Great job bringing out Tom Volk’s academic brilliance and sweet personality! Really a great interview.

    Eugenia bone
  • Thank you for this excellent interview with Tom. He is a superb colleague at UWL, and I learn from him whenever there isn’t a pandemic keeping us apart.

    Barrett Klein

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