Fungi with white rot, fungi with brown rot
Trees are rich in cellulose and the sugar that forms part of the tree is mainly found in this polymer. However, unlike what happens with grapes the sugar of which is easily useable with yeast to produce alcohol , obtaining glucose (and alcohol) from a tree is not so easy.
There are two ways to degrade wood, pointed out Mr Pisabarro: there are timbers which, on rotting, go white as a result of fungi; there are others which go brown, and this is produced by another type of fungus, such as P. placenta. The novelty with this fungus is how it intervenes in the degradation of the wood, its capacity to eat the cellulose without damaging lignin, the substance protecting the tree's cellulose. When we observe a tree, despite the fact that the cellulose making it up is mostly white, what we see is not white but brown. This is due to the layer of lignin protecting it and which gives it its woody appearance.
This substance, lignin, protects the cellulose of the tree from attack by other organisms and the tree loses consistence, it rots and is broken down by other organisms; but it also makes it more difficult for us to obtain the sugar to produce alcohol. So, what we have to do is to break up the lignin layer. The fungi which eat (degrade or break up) the lignin leave the cellulose open to view and the tree rots with a coating of white rot. Fungi like P. placenta, nevertheless, are capable of eating the cellulose without damaging the lignin and, in fact, the trees affected by this fungus, on rotting, end up with a brownish colour. Our goal is to find out the modus operandi of these fungi how they manage to get the cellulose and, in this way, recover the greatest quantity of glucose from the wood in order to use it to produce alcohol.
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