Date of Award

Winter 12-12-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)



Committee Chair/First Advisor

Mario Bretfeld

Major Professor

Christopher Cornelison

Second Committee Member

Martin Hudson

Third Committee Member

Susan M.E. Smith


Agriculture represents a significant portion of Georgia’s economy. However, this industry produces a significant amount of material byproduct, such as cotton gin trash, and despite research into re-purposing, the uses available are limited and provide little to negative value for producers. Many edible specialty mushrooms degrade plant material as their preferred food source, and for some varieties their cultivation on agricultural waste has been well-documented. This presents an opportunity to farmers in Georgia, as the specialty mushroom industry is a rapidly growing segment of the American agricultural market, but diversity in domestically cultivated species is still limited. This research has directly addressed these gaps in knowledge by demonstrating the feasibility of cultivating gourmet mushrooms including Hericium erinaceus, Pholiota adiposa, and Pleurotus spp. mushrooms using agricultural residues available in Georgia including cotton gin trash, wheat middlings, peanut hulls, and spent coffee grounds. Many of these mushroom-bearing fungi are also known or suspected to produce complex, high-value biomolecules such as pigments. The high value of these molecules is derived from their current lack of stable supply methods and great demand in a variety of industries such as cosmetics, medicine, and electronics. Thus, the ability to produce these molecules without animal inputs using fungi grown on globally abundant, low-cost feedstock could have ramifications across the economy. However, a quantification of the ability for most edible fungi to produce these molecules when grown upon agricultural byproducts is yet unavailable. This project has addressed this lack of knowledge first by screening 56 unique fungal isolates for their ability to produce pigment, selecting 7 pigment-producing isolates from distinct genera for further quantification of pigment production, and the highest producing isolate therein for evaluating the feasibility of using agricultural residues as reagents for this high-value biomolecule production.

Available for download on Sunday, December 19, 2027