Modified Use of Spored Oil for Profitable Production of Mushrooms

Final Report for FNE10-678

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2010: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Lawrence Beckerle
Mountaintop Quail Farms
Expand All

Project Information

Summary:

This project sought to test the use of biodegradable oil to which mushroom spores were added so that it could not only lubricate the bar and chain of the chainsaw but also inoculate the wood as it is cut. This way three objectives could be accomplished: 1) prevent environment contamination, 2) perform maintenance activities on the forest farm, and 3) inoculate wood for mushroom production as trees and branches are cut.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the spored biodegradable oil at inoculating wood and the protecting agents to facilitate and promote mycelium growth, Mr. Beckerle conducted five studies:
Study 1: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs in Totem Pole Arrangement,
Study 2: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs,
Study 3: Shiitake (SH) on Logs,
Study 4: Oyster Mix (OM) on Stumps, and
Study 5: Shiitake (SH) on Stumps.

The treatments with spored oil, also called spore infused oil, did not yield the desired mushrooms. Only the treatments that included spawn yielded the desired mushrooms, either oyster or shiitake depending on which spawn was used in the treatment. Since the production of oyster and shiitake mushrooms was supposed to be the primary means of evaluating the various spored oil treatments, it is now evident that some other methods should be included to better evaluate the various treatments.

Bracket fungi should be harvested and weighed to show which treatments result in less or more water retention. A few fungi such as Turkey Tail, (Trametes versicolor), False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea) and Hairy Parchment (S. hirsutum) are in themselves of value for medicinal purposes. Of these three, Turkey Tail is the most tolerant of dry conditions.  The no treatment controls had the most turkey tail mushrooms. Logs with the most moisture had no turkey tail mushrooms.

Stump treatments need stronger protection than shaded log treatments. Lumber end wax and freezer paper proved to be far less durable on the stump treatments than on the ends of logs under shade.  A well selected and prepared log yard provides protection from drying sun and wind, has potential for irrigation and soaking of logs, and other management techniques. To achieve enough moisture retention in stumps may require the use of a heavy plastic, such as the thick plastic used to make round bale silage.  An example of how to use this plastic in an experiment is included in this report. 

Ordinary paper helps the desired spores to germinate and the initial mycelium to spread over the ends of logs.  Without this added food source for the desired spores and mycelium, weed fungi and molds can be much more of a problem.  In the log experiments above, (Aspergillus spp.) was more of a problem than anticipated in the lumber-end-wax treatments. Paper lacks durability and so must be used in combination with one or more other treatments, such as wax, plastic, or wax and plastic combination.

The positive controls which used mushroom spawn were able to defend against the black mold by hardening and compartmentalizing. What is needed is for the spored oil treatments to get along far enough to be able to defend against black mold. The original work by Paul Staments (around 2000) was done using red alder and may have been in a more moist location. Perhaps his stumps were older. Additional age of logs and stumps is initially to the benefit of oyster and shiitake establishment, but with age comes increased risk of weed fungi.

Timing of the setup may influence success in a number of ways. The sugar content of logs is higher when trees are dormant, for oaks this is commonly assumed to be from October 1 to April 1. The amount of spores in the air is lowest in the dead of winter,which to some suggests February as the best month to inoculate logs. However, where drought is a serious issue such as the stump experiments it may be more advantages to inoculate logs and stumps in October or November. This would allow the mycelium more time to colonize the log and stump, which would likely make it better able to survive in the dry summer months.

 

Introduction:

[This author prefers to write in the third person and avoid using the use of I, my, mine and so on.]

 In his book Mycelium Running Paul Stamets describes how he used spored oil delivered by a chainsaw to inoculate stumps. Spore infused oil, trademarked as Spored Oils by the supplier, Paul Staments of Fungi Perfecti had been available for inoculating stumps for about ten years prior to the beginning of this research project. Stumps present a number of challenges when designing a research project, especially in mountain terrain where slope, aspect and other factors vary widely in short distances.  

 

Because Mr. Lawrence T. Beckerle (pronounced Becker lee) had previously inoculated logs by placing spores on the ends of logs, it was decided to make logs the common denominator of the five experiments described below. In addition, Mr. Beckerle wanted to lay the foundation for taking the idea to a higher level in the future, such as making it profitable to put spore infused oil on logs of a mushroom's preferred species and using those logs on stumps of a species of wood that is usually less productive of the desired mushrooms. In other words, think of chestnut oak or white oak logs with shiitake spored oil on the log ends, set on top of stumps of species that are generally less desirable both for timber production and for growing shiitake mushrooms, such as beech, birch, gum, red maple, and sassafras. Once techniques are proven for shiitake they are often readily usable for a number of other gourmet and medicinal mushrooms.

Five related experiments were initiated in February 2011 to test enhancements for encouraging spore infused oil to inoculate logs, stumps, and totem poles, and complete enough colonization to produce shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

 

Better testing of spored oil was obviously needed because some reported great success using spored oil, while many others reported no success. Note that enough customers experienced failure, that Fungi Perfecti stopped selling Spored Oils in 2012 (personal communication with staff at Fungi Perfecti 2013) Mr. Beckerle's success using spores in prior tests to inoculate logs had ranged from zero to about ten percent of the total logs used in a test. Understandably, the expectation by Mr. Beckerle was that inoculation success rates and mushroom production could only get better with improved methods. There was also the expectation that Mr. Beckerle could also get a better idea of what factors hindered success. Some of the latter was achieved and thus can serve as a guide to future experiments. At this time three factors stand out to Mr. Beckerle:

 

The first was very rapid and serious problem with black mold: Asprgillus spp. Second, competition in the sapwood layer of logs may be more significant with spored oil inoculation than with inoculation achieved with sawdust spawn. Chestnut oak stumps provided enough moisture to chestnut oak logs so that there was still viable shiitake colonization in the heartwood part of the juncture of log to stump as of December 2013. However, all the sapwood was occupied by the mycelium of other white rot fungi, which probably prevented the shiitake mycelium from producing mushrooms. Mushrooms normally begin formation just under the bark. Third, the success of bracket fungi indicate that something more protective of moisture retention and more durable than lumber end wax or freezer paper by themselves is needed for spored oil inoculated logs to eventually produce oyster or shiitake mushrooms either on or off stumps.

 

In addition to lessons specific to the experimental goals of this five experiment project, there were a number of observations that should be useful for other research, for example: The amount of effort that deer made to get to and eat hairy parchment (Stereum hirsutum) suggests to Mr. Beckerle that this mushroom not only has food value for deer, but some type of medicinal value. Among the information in the Fugal Pharmacy is the following: “The whole mushroom contains antibiotic activity.” (Rodgers 2011). If deer again feed on this mushroom in the fall of 2014, Mr. Beckerle plans to document with photographs.  

 

In three of the experiments, spawn was added to the ends of logs in specified treatment to provide another way of comparing treatments and to serve as positive controls. Not only do positive controls serve as a kind of insurance, but often make comparisons more useful to potential growers.

 

Only the spawn treatments produced mushrooms. Spores of shiitake and oyster did germinate and produce mycelium in their respective spored oil treatments, but never advanced far enough or strong enough to initiate shiitake or oyster mushrooms. Shiitake and other mushroom fungi will spend all of their energy to colonize a food source before producing mushrooms, so as to protect that food source from competitors. If a grower tries to force fruit a log before it is fully colonized, the mycelium of the cultivated mushroom is weakened and thus made more susceptible to weed fungi and organisms that feed on the mycelium, for example: forest green mold and penicillin mold. See Prxybylowicx and Donoghue.

A possible alternative that was not considered until late 2013 was that the bracket fungi, normally considered to be weeds on shiitake logs might have been used a measure of how well the different treatments preserve moisture in the logs and protect logs from other contaminants. Mr. Beckerle now believes that the medicinal mushrooms: Turkey tail, false turkey tail, and false parchment could have been harvested, weighed and used for statistical analysis, if he had positively identified each species at an earlier date. He wasn't confident about the last two species until he purchased a copy of Macrofungi Associated with Oaks of Eastern North America by Denise E. Binion, Steven L. Stephenson, William C. Roody, Harold H. Burdsall, Jr., Larisa N. Vasilyeva, Orson K. Miller, Jr.

Introduction

 

Using plug spawn to inoculate logs has become the dominant cultivation method used by small scale producers for growing shiitake and a number of other gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. Mr. Beckerle has had success using several types of plug spawn since 1985. In spite of this success, Mr. Beckerle has been interested in and experimented with other possibilities. Before the plug spawn methods were first invented by the Japanese for growing Shiitake mushrooms, a type of log end inoculation was used. Mature Shiitake mushrooms were rubbed on the ends of fresh to recently cut oak logs, resulting in spores becoming part of the open pores and sap at the ends of the logs. An improvement on this idea is to use paper with a spore print and attach it to the ends of fresh cut logs.    

 

In earlier work, Mr. Beckerle found that causing a spore print to form on the paper side of freezer paper and then attaching it to the log so the paper side faces the fresh cut end of the log, helps to preserve moisture and can result in more logs being successfully inoculated. The paper part of the freezer paper helps the first mycelium to spread across the the entire end of the log, helping to speed up colonization of the log. Additional coverings to reduce moisture lost and protect the ends of logs are often beneficial, but these investments in time and materials can only be justified if enough logs eventually produce the desired mushrooms. Generally the rate of success by Mr. Beckerle's efforts varied from zero to ten percent of the total number of logs inoculated with spores only. The more recent invention for applying spores to the ends of logs is to put spores in a biodegradable oil used to lubricate the bar and chain of a chainsaw. The oil helps to both protect the spores during storage and after they are applied to the end of a log (personal communication “Fungi Perfecti). Using this spored oil, also called spore infused oil, in a chainsaw results in faster and easier application of spores to the ends of logs than older methods such as rubbing a mature mushroom against the ends.

 

Another way to inoculate the ends of logs is to apply spawn (usually sawdust spawn) to the ends of logs and then cover the spawn with freezer paper, plastic or a cold wax. (Hot paraffin or “cheese wax” that is often preferred to   cover the exposed ends of plugs in plug spawn inoculation.) Log end inoculation with spawn can be very competitive with plug spawn cultivation, but is best suited for logs less than the standard lengths used for plug spawn. Common methods for cultivating shiitake suggest using two to four feet long logs for growing shiitake. To demonstrate what is possible, Mr. Beckerle once inoculated a four inch long log, weighing about four ounces. The four-inch log produced four mushrooms.

 

With spawn plug inoculation, a spacing of 6 inches between plugs results in faster colonization than a spacing of 10 or 12 inches between plugs. Similarly, with log end inoculation a 6-inch long log will be colonized quicker than a 10 or 12-inch long log. For log end cultivation Mr. Beckerle prefers to use logs of 18 or 20 inches in length. However due to time constraints, Mr Beckerle used logs that were 16 inches long in the five experiments.

 

The above information is not intended as a general recommendation of log end inoculation over any of the plug spawn methods, but for its similarities to treatments for aiding spored oil inoculation of log ends. Mr. Beckerle has used log end inoculation as a convenient means to utilize scraps and left over sawdust spawn that had low vigor or otherwise was in poor condition. The main disadvantages to logs inoculated at the ends is that those logs are less durable on the ends and thus more difficult to soak in buckets or tanks without damaging the ends. Once the ends are damage, the logs are more susceptible to the green mold contaminants than logs inoculated with plug spawn. This is one of the reasons it is so noteworthy that there was not any green mold contaminants in the log yard using a high tunnel shade house.  

 

The improved methods for using spores to inoculate logs are all still very experimental, so using spawn on the ends of logs was included on several of the experiments to provide a kind of what is called “a positive control”. Including a positive control often provides for a useful comparison for statistical purposes and provides some answers when and if all other treatments don't produce as expected.

 

 

 

Standard Stump Issues

The first cuts when feeling a tree is to take a wedge out of the tree on the side on which the tree cutter wants the tree to fall. A common mistake is to make the wedge cut too narrow. In an article in Tree Care Magazine (2013 or 2014), the author recommended that the wedge cut should be an 80 degree angle. The cut behind the wedge is made slightly above the mid level of the wedge cut. The reason for both cutting above the mid level and making an angle of at least 80 degrees to keep the tree from kicking back as it falls. These safety steps result in stumps of an uneven height.

 

In terms of forest regeneration it is a mistake to leave stumps that are too high. High stumps produce sprouts that often result in trees that are both crooked and more subject to rot. A standard recommendation is that stumps should be less than 6 inches tall on the uphill side of the stump after   trees are harvested. When Mr. Beckerle helped to procure timber in the late 80's and 90's for four sawmills in West Virginia the standard for stumps less than 6 inches tall was so well accepted that representatives for federal, state and private timber included the standard as a provision of timber harvesting contracts. The four sawmills that Mr. Beckerle worked for as well as most competing sawmills also included the standard in the contracts that they offered to private landowners. Each of the sawmills that Mr. Beckerle worked for needed to put under contract an average of 3,000 acres per year and so he had the opportunity to review a large number of contracts. However it is often easier for the timber cutter to cut trees in a way that leaves a high stump. Some make another cut to lower the stump. Some forget that second cut. Some try to ignore the need for making stumps short. Therefore, the height of stumps is often an issue in contract compliance.

 In this project, the height of each stump was shortened as much as practical (always less than 6 inches on the uphill side) during the leveling process. The leveling process for the mushroom experiment represented a second opportunity to insure stumps were of a short height. Therefore the eventual success of using logs on stumps for the production of mushrooms would have important implications for increasing the future value of timber on land where this practice is used.

 

Project Objectives:

This project proposes the use of biodegradable oil to which mushroom spores have been added so that it can not only lubricate the bar and chain of the chainsaw but also inoculate the wood as it is cut. This way three objectives are accomplished: 1) prevent environment contamination, 2) perform maintenance activities on the forest farm, and 3) inoculate wood for mushroom production as trees and branches are cut.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the spored biodegradable oil at inoculating wood and the protecting agents to facilitate and promote mycelium growth, we propose five studies:
Study 1: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs in Totem Pole Arrangement,
Study 2: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs,
Study 3: Shiitake (SH) on Logs,
Study 4: Oyster Mix (OM) on Stumps, and
Study 5: Shiitake (SH) on Stumps.

Treatments will be single or combined applications at log ends of spored oil and sawdust spawn, which will be covered with freezer paper, lumber-end-wax or nothing (control). Studies will be arranged in Randomized Complete Block Designs with 4 or 5 replications each. We will collect yield data by recording mushroom weight and number and calculating average mushroom weight per log (sub sample) and per replication. Data will be analyzed using standard statistical procedures to determine whether treatments are significantly different.

The methodology to perform these studies is as follows:
Study 1: Oyster Mix on Logs in Totem Pole Arrangement For the cultivation of Oyster mushrooms it is common to use the totem pole method. The bottom log is set into the ground like a post. Sawdust spawn is placed on top of this log and then another log is placed on top of it end to end. With five 16-inch logs stacked vertically in this manner, the totem pole would be about six feet high. All logs will be cut using spored oil in the chainsaw. The five logs in each of the totem poles will receive one of the following treatments: -TOM1 = No spawn in between the logs (control). -TOM2 = Sawdust spawn in between log ends (standard method). -TOM3 = Totem pole on top of a stump. -TOM4 = Totem pole on top of a stump with spawn in between log ends. The study will be arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design. Four totem poles, each treated with a different treatment, will be randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study will have five randomly distributed replications, so the experiment will have a total of 20 totem poles.

Study 2: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs and Study 3: Shiitake (SH) on Logs Logs will be stacked on pallets to prevent soil contamination and reduce variability. Used pallets are sometimes available for just the time and cost to pick them up. A stack of logs is often referred to as a rick. A pallet can hold two small ricks. With five treatments and four reps, 20 ricks will be needed for Oyster Mix and 20 ricks for Shiitake. Red maple logs will be used for the Oyster Mix. Oak, most likely chestnut oak, will be used for Shiitake. One humidity blanket will be needed for each. The humidity blanket is used to speed initial mycelium colonization. It is used again during mushroom formation. Moisture content in logs needs to be 45–60% for good mycelium growth and fruiting yield. Logs will be watered as needed. A water line will be run from a spring up on the hill to a drip irrigation system in the log yard. The Mountaintop Quail Farm relies on shade trees, including pine to protect Shiitake logs. Shade from trees is not uniform enough for research purposes, so 70 % shade cloth will hung above the logs to protect them from excessive drying. The pipe used to hold up the shade cloth can support double layer plastic. Double layer plastic will be used in the colder months to extend the season for mycelium growth, so that logs will be ready for mushroom production on the second year of the experiments. Double layer plastic will also be used to extend the season for producing mushrooms. All logs with be cut using spored oil in the chainsaw. The five logs in each stack will receive one of the following treatments: Oyster Mix: -LOM1 = No covering on log ends (control) -LOM2 = Freezer paper on log ends -LOM3 = Lumber-end-wax on log ends -LOM4 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with freezer paper -LOM5 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with Lumber-end-wax Shiitake: -LSH1 = No covering on log ends (control) -LSH2 = Freezer paper on log ends -LSH3 = Lumber-end-wax on log ends -LSH4 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with freezer paper -LSH5 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with Lumber-end-wax Each of these two studies will be arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design. Five stacks, each with a different treatment, will be randomly assigned inside a replication (block).

The study will have four randomly distributed replications, so each study will have a total of 5 logs x 5 treatments x 4 replications = 100 logs, so 200 logs will be needed for studies 2 and 3.

Study 4: Oyster Mix (OM) on Stumps and

Study 5: Shiitake (SH) on Stumps Stumps with be cut using spored oil in the chainsaw. Fifteen of the stumps will be red maple which will be inoculated with Oyster Mix and other fifteen will be oak stumps which will be inoculated with Shiitake. Stumps will receive one of the following treatments: Oyster Mix: -SOM1 = No covering on stumps (control) -SOM2 = Freezer paper covering -SOM3 = Lumber-end-wax covering Shiitake: -SSH1 = No covering on stumps (control) -SSH2 = Freezer paper covering -SSH3 = Lumber-end-wax covering The study will be arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design. Three stumps, each with a different treatment, will be randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study will have five randomly distributed replications, so each of these two studies will need 15 stumps. The time of grant awarding is critical for the starting of this project.

During late spring and summer (May 1–August 15), the tree bark is slick and comes off so easily that mushroom production is usually adversely affected. Logs for growing Shiitake are normally cut between October 1 and April 1, because the nutrient (sugar) content of the sapwood of the logs is more favorable for growing Shiitake. There are also fewer spores of contaminants in the air during winter months than in the summer months. January and February are often the months with the lowest spore counts in the air. Logs to be used for oyster mushroom cultivation are often cut in the summer months but can be cut also in the fall and winter months. For work in the cold months, it will be helpful to have a chainsaw with the option of heating the carburetor and handles.

The system works off the ignition system and adds about $80 to the cost of a chainsaw. The system is available on chainsaws manufactured for professionals. Professional chain saws are generally easier to cut with and have less vibration in the handles. Vibration can lead to operator fatigue, accidents, and problems with joints in the fingers, hands arms and shoulders. The oil pumps are generally of a better quality, producing a more uniform application of oil. That more uniform application will then also help to ensure a more uniform application of spores. Because oil from petroleum can kill spores, it is prudent to use a new chainsaw for this study. A semi chisel chain generally gives a smoother cut, which may aid in the uniformity of wax application and extend the life of waxed paper. I currently use a professional chainsaw with an 88cc engine. For this study, I propose the use of a chainsaw with a 52cc engine.

A bottle of spored oil is generally mixed with 5 gallons of biodegradable bar oil. In this study, one bottle will be mixed with 4 gallons of biodegradable bar oil. One gallon of the nine gallons to be ordered will be used as a buffer between the work with Oyster Mix infused oil and work with Shiitake infused oil. More background: The production of edible and medicinal mushrooms has been hailed as a likely income source for small farmers (Stamets 2000, Leatham 1981). Of the many mushrooms that have been suggested, the greatest demand is for Shiitake mushrooms. On a lower scale are the Oyster mushrooms, which are easier to grow.

The statistical service for the United States Department of Agriculture monitors the production of Shiitake. Anyone with 200 logs or more is considered to be a commercial producer. This may seem low until one realizes just how much work goes into the production of mushrooms. Various types of spawn and tools have been invented to lower the work load for the producer of mushrooms. In spite of this, the production of mushrooms is still quite labor intensive and so most producers remain quite small. Spawn is a term that generally refers to both the mycelium and the medium on which the mycelium grows. It is used by growers to get a mushroom producing fungus started in logs or a bulk substrate. There are a number of variations of spawn. The most common are grain spawn, sawdust spawn, wooden plug spawn and thimble spawn. Wedge spawn and rope spawn are examples of products that are currently out of use. The invention of spawn techniques took Shiitake from being primarily a wild collected mushroom to its current status as widely cultivated mushroom. Total world production has been reported to be in the billions of dollars (Leatham 1981). Thus spawn is considered to be a significant advancement over the use of spores for inoculating logs to produce mushrooms. However, advancements have been made in the use of spores for inoculating growth mediums.

The one that is relevant to this study is the practice of using spores in the bar oil of a chainsaw. Bar oil lubricates the chain and bar as the chainsaw cuts through wood. Some of this oil is deposited on the wood as it is cut. When a vegetable oil or other biodegradable oil is used as a bar oil, it becomes possible to deposit viable spores onto the wood as it is cut. When oil is infused with spores it is referred to as spored oil. Spored oil is available only for a few species and only from Fungi Perfecti, a company owned and operated by Paul Staments. Because he developed this product, he has a trademark on Spored Oils. There are two spored oil products for deciduous woodlands: One for Shiitake and one that may contain “one or more of the following: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Maitake (Grifola pulmonarius), and Pearl Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus). For the rest of this proposal, the later shall be referred to as Oyster Mix. According to the Fungi Perfecti catalog, Mr. Staments developed these products for use on stumps. Spored oil as a product has been available for about ten years. It is sold as an option for inoculating stumps. For the mushroom grower it is fun to try, but the chance of success is very uncertain. If the method were to be developed into an economically viable alternative, then the mushroom grower could consider it as a commercial enterprise. It is much easier to do and potentially less expensive. In theory, $29.95 of spored oil can be used to inoculate a thousand logs or even two thousand logs. It takes $500 or more of spawn to inoculate a thousand logs. The above example is only for the purpose of showing an order of magnitude as there are many variables, such as concentration of spores and inoculation rate for spawn. In the above, a log is figured as16 inches in length and five inches in diameter. A mushroom log can be any diameter or length that the grower chooses to use. Most growers of Shiitake use lengths of 30 to 40 inches and diameters of three to five inches.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Mario Morales

Research

Materials and methods:
SUMMARY OF RESEARCH METHODS AND RESULTS

This project included five experiments, called five studies in the initial grant request.   Logs of 16” length were used in all experiments and all treatments. Stumps were included in three of the five experiments. Freezer paper and lumber end wax were included as treatments in four of the five experiments. Treatments using sawdust spawn on the ends of logs were included in three of the five experiments*.

 

*Dr. Mario Morales, who served 2009-2011 as technical adviser, on more than one occasion in 2009 suggested reducing the proposed project to one or two experiments. However, Mr. Beckerle feared that some valuable information would be missed with a less demanding project. Mr. Beckerle was also cognizant of the many years it can take to reach the end of an experiment, so he believed it was better to do the five experiments concurrently rather than consecutively. He hope to save several years both for himself and for anyone who may want to pursue similar research.

Study 1: Oyster mix on logs in totem pole arrangement

For cultivation of Oyster mushrooms it is common to set the logs in a black plastic bag with sawdust spawn on the ends of the logs, enclose in a black plastic bag for the spawn run and after the spawn run set the lags in a totem pole arrangement as described by Joe Krawczyk and Mary Ellen Kozak of Field and Forest Mushrooms, Inc. in their catalog of recent years, including the 2014 catalog.

 

In the totem pole experiment Mr. Beckerle used logs > 10 inches in diameter and used a vertical stack of logs, similar to the totem pole setup described by Krawczyk and Kozak 2014. However, the bottom log was set into the ground like a post with a black plastic bag as a barrier between the ground and the bottom log of the totem pole. Oyster mushroom spawn was placed on top of this log and then another log was placed on top of it end to end and then more spawn before the next log was added. With four16-inch logs placed vertically in this manner, each totem pole was about 54 inches tall. All logs were cut using a chainsaw that had oyster mix spored oil lubricating the bar and chain, resulting in spores and oil on the ends of logs. The logs in each of the totem poles received one of the following treatments:

TOM 1 = No spawn in between logs with black plastic as barrier to soil fungi (control)

TOM 2 = Sawdust logs in between log ends with black plastic as a barrier to soil fungi (a near standard practice or positive control)

TOM 3 = Totem pole on top of stump

TOM 4 = Totem pole with spawn in between logs on top of stump

The study was arranged in a randomized complete block design. There were seven randomly distributed replications (blocks) so the experiment had a total of 28 totem poles.

 

The condition of bark on totem poles on stumps was greater than that of totem poles not placed on stumps. This suggests that some wicking of moisture occurred from stumps into totem poles. In addition, of the positive controls on stumps, 3 out of 4 produced oyster mushrooms. Of the positive controls not on stumps, only 1 of 4 produced oyster mushrooms. On one occasion those mushrooms were over half eaten by black beetles (nearly a half inch long) before they could reach maturity to be harvested and weighed. The mushrooms produced from totem poles on stumps were not noticeably fed on by the black beetles.

 

Mr. Beckerle used red maple (Acer rubrum) because of its abundance on his farm, which made setting up the totem experiment far easier that using sugar maple (Acer saccharum). The use of red maple would have been a more fruitful choice had there been the even, abundant rain in the first year that occurred in 2013. In the nearer future Mr. Beckerle will likely use sugar maple for oyster spored oil treatments, because sugar maple is less prone to drying out than red maple. Once Mr. Beckerle has a better idea what enhancements are needed, then he will return to experimenting with red maple.

 

NOTE: Since the oyster spored oil may have also included spores of Hen-of-the-woods (Maitake) mushrooms, there was a possibility of finding Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms at the base of stumps that died. Two stumps in this experiment died and two appear to be dying. The poor survival of stump sprouts on other stumps, could indicate that the amount of moisture wicked by a totem pole is too much for young sprouts supporting the stump and roots.

 

Log experiments

Study 2 Oyster mix on logs

 

Oyster Mix: LOM1 = No covering on log ends (control)

Oyster Mix: LOM2 = Freezer paper on log ends

Oyster Mix: LOM3 = Lumber-end-wax on log ends

Oyster Mix: LOM4 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with freezer paper (positive control)

Oyster Mix: LOM5 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with lumber-end-wax and then wax paper*

 

Lumber end wax is considered to be non toxic to fungi. It is used by sawmills and others in the lumber industry to prevent cracking, checking, on the ends of lumber and logs. Shortly after lumber is produced at a sawmill and before any significant drying takes place, lumber-end-wax is brushed on or sprayed on the ends of boards. A number of colors are available to distinguish different products or even an individual lumber manufacturer from its competitors. The clear, easy to see through, lumber-end-wax used in this experiment is trademarked as Anchorseal. Anchorseal 2, which has not been tried by Mr. Beckerle, is described as a hybrid of the natural wax used in Anchorseal and paraffin from petroleum byproducts. Both are manufactured by U C Coatings Corporation   Some in the lumber industry use paint products to seal the ends lumber and logs. Those paints are considered to be toxic to mushroom mycelium and therefore were not considered for any of the studies.

 

*Dr. Mario Morales helped Mr. Beckerle put the LOM4 and LOM5 treatments on the log ends in Study 2 and Study 3. At the time they worked on these two studies, February 2011, there was a challenge in that the lumber-end wax did not dry quickly enough. So wax paper was put over the lumber-end-wax covering to hold it in place until it dried.

 

16-inch long logs were cut from small diameter red maple trees using a chainsaw with spored oil to lubricate the bar and chain, and deliver spored oil to the ends of logs as each cut was made. Most of the stumps left after harvesting of those trees were used for Study 4. Five logs were stacked with three laying one way and two on top laying perpendicular to the three. Periodically the logs were rotated within their stack to maintain even moisture within each log. Each stack, rick, was kept in its assigned place on a wood pallet.

 

The study was arranged in a Randomized Complete Bock Design. Five stacks, each with a different treatment, was randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study had four randomly distributed replications across 5 treatments. 5 logs x 5 treatments x 4 replications = 100 logs.

The logs were sorted according to size (diameter), so each replication would have logs of the same size and weight. Aluminum tags were attached to logs. Dr. Morales etched numbers onto the tags and Mr. Beckerle applied the appropriate treatments.

Mycelium of shiitake still shows up on the ends of LSH2 logs during cool, wet weather, so it is still possible that some of these logs may produce shiitake mushrooms.

Yields for 2014 are through 4-22-14

 

Shiitake: LSH1 = No covering on log ends (control)

Shiitake: LSH2 = Freezer paper on log ends

Shiitake: LSH3 = Lumber-end-wax on ends

Shiitake: LSH4 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with freezer paper (positive control)

Shiitake: LSH5 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with a thicker than normal layer of lumber-end-wax and then wax paper*

 

*The coating of lumber end wax had to be put on thicker than normal, because the still fresh spawn broke apart into mostly fingernail size pieces and soaked in much of the wax. In prior tests Mr. Beckerle used spawn that was old enough and firm enough from the extensive mycelium network that it could be sliced like a sturdy bread. The spawn was coated with the lumber end wax using a brush. In addition to a variety of paint brushes, a Solo backpack sprayer was purchased to apply lumber end wax to the ends of logs. However, due to the relatively small scale and the ease of using some of the brushes, there wasn't any noticeable time savings using the backpack sprayer. If the experiments with wax had used larger diameter logs (such as 10 inches and up) and more stumps (such as a hundred or more), then the advantages of the Solo backpack sprayer would have been much more evident.

 

16-inch long logs were cut from small diameter chestnut oak trees using a chainsaw with spored oil to lubricate the bar and chain, and deliver spored oil to the ends of logs as each cut was made. . Most of the stumps left after the harvesting of those trees were used for study 5. Five logs were stacked with three laying one way and two on top laying perpendicular to the three. Periodically the logs were rotated within their stack to maintain even moisture within each log. Each stack, rick, was kept in its assigned place on a wood pallet.

The study was arranged in a Randomized Complete Bock Design. Five stacks, each with a different treatment, were randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study had five treatments, with five logs each randomly distributed across six replications, which six required 150 logs total.

 

Logs were sorted so logs within a replication were of the same diameter. Diameter of logs in replication one were the largest (6 inches). Diameter of logs in replication six were the smallest (3 inches).

 

For commercial purposes, the productive life of shiitake logs tends to be one year for each inch of log diameter and tends to follow a bell curve that allows Mr. Beckerle to predict what year will be the peak year of production and what yields will be after the peak year of production, for example: In logs with a 5 year productive life, the peak year is normally year 3. Yields in year 1 are similar to year 5.   Yields in year 2 are similar to year 4.

 

Productive life begins with the first production of mushrooms (spring to fall 2012). Note that most replications had at least some logs that began producing shiitake mushrooms in 2012. The first mushrooms to be produced on any logs in replication 5 occurred April 2013. Past experience along with the results so far allow for the following predictions:

 

Production of shiitake will probably peak in 2014. Total yield of shiitake mushrooms in 2015 will probably be similar to yields in 2013. Total yield in 2016 will probably be similar to total yield in 2012. Some of the larger logs will likely produce a few shiitake into 2017 and even beyond. From a commercial enterprise point of view, the logs would be cleared out of the high tunnel shade house at the end of 2016 or in 2017. However for the sake of science, logs will probably be left in the high tunnel shade house for a longer time period.

 

Three of the shiitake mushrooms that Mr. Beckerle harvested on 4-19-14 were from logs that were inoculated in the 1990's. Generally such results are interesting, but of no commercial value except to the small producer who needs every shiitake mushroom that he can find. However, when a large number of shiitake logs in a log yard have longer than normal inoculation periods and longer than normal productive life with low yearly yields, it indicates that the logs experience long periods when moisture or other growing conditions were limiting. Therefore, the longer observation period suggested above may also shed light on the conditions of the growing yard which was newly created for the log experiments.

 

The productive life of shiitake logs can be compressed in shorter time periods by use of greenhouses and high tunnels. A high tunnel frame was built out of 1.5-inch diameter, ten-foot long PVC electrical conduit pipes and carriage bolts. In a single hoop, a 45-degree PVC electrical conduit pipe was used to joined two 10-foot long pipes. These were arched so that the width at the base was about 13.5 feet and the middle of the 45-degree pipe was about 6.5 feet above the ground. Small diameter (close to 1.5 inches) black locust trees and limbs were used to anchor the ends of the ten-foot long pipes into the ground. The spacing between each hoop is four feet. The top of each hoop was then connected by bolting a line of ten-foot long pipes to the inside curve of the 45-degree pipe.   This structure was covered with 70% shade cover when logs needed to be protected from excessive heating and drying due to solar radiation. This same structure could have been covered with plastic to serve as a small greenhouse or high tunnel during the cooler months   However, eliminating rainfall as a source of water to the logs during cooler months, would have made irrigation a necessity rather than a preferred option. Since some water supply problems were not solved, the proposed drip line irrigation system was not put into place.

 

The positive controls which used mushroom spawn were able to defend against the black mold by hardening and compartmentalizing. What is needed for the spored oil treatments is to get along far enough to be able to defend against black mold. The original work by Paul Staments (around 2000) was done using red alder and may have been in a more moist location. Perhaps his stumps were older. Additional age of logs and stumps is initially to the benefit of oyster and shiitake establishment, but with age comes increased risk of weed fungi.

 

This experiment had only three species of weed fungi, turkey tail, false turkey tail and hairy parchment. The no treatment controls had the most turkey tail mushrooms. Logs with the most moisture had no turkey tail mushrooms. While conducting this experiment Mr. Beckerle observed deer eating hairy parchment mushrooms. They move logs and peel off the undersides of logs where the hairy parchment is more like parchment. On the ends of logs, hairy parchment is more like a bracket fungus and and harder for deer to detach from the log.

 

From a mushroom producer's perspective it is highly significant that there were no green molds on any logs. There was no black blow off disease or any of the other weed fungi that are common in mushroom growing yards.

 

NOTE: In the spored oil experiments that included lumber end wax, all log ends were allowed to dry off, so the lumber end wax would form a proper seal on its logs. In standard work with plug spawn, Mr. Beckerle allows the ends to dry off primarily to avoid green molds. In his standard work using spawn on the ends of logs, he generally puts spawn and covering on the ends within minutes of the cut.

 

NOTE: Freezer paper and lumber end wax make it easier to consider other enhancements to aid newly germinating spores and early mycelium on logs. The experience of the SARE sponsored research will aid Mr. Beckerle's current and future attempts to use spores for inoculating logs and stumps.

 

Stumps treatments

Fifteen red maple stumps were inoculated using Oyster Mix (OM) spored oil delivered by a chainsaw.   Each 16-inch log that had been inoculated on both ends with OM spored oil delivered by a chainsaw as each end was cut and then set on top of a red maple stump. The top end of each log then received one of the following treatments:

Oyster Mix: SOM1 = No covering of top of log set on stump (control)

Oyster Mix: SOM 2 = Freezer paper covering top of log set on stump*

Oyster Mix: SOM 3 = Lumber end wax covering top of log set on stump

 

*In March 2012 Mr. Beckerle placed a second covering of freezer paper on top of logs, because the first covering had nearly disintegrated from weathering.

  

The study was arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design. Three stumps, each with a different treatment, were randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study had 5 randomly distributed replications, so the study used 15 stumps.

 

An additional 9 stumps with logs freezer paper or lumber end wax toppings were set up near the study to serve as more frequent subjects to be disrupted by the curious mind. One red maple log was set on a sourwood stump. This resulted in mycelium between the red maple log and sourwood stump that had a very ropey look to it.

 

In petri dish culture ropey mycelium indicates the culture is getting old (Staments and Chilton         ) The ropey look also indicates that the culture has sloughed off many of its genes. The ropey mycelium between the red maple log and the sourwood stump may suggest that the mycelium was soughing off some of the genes that it used for red maple as it moved into the sourwood stump. Or it may mean something very different.

There is a mass of shiitake mycelium at the juncture of the log and stump. Of the two replications that were examined, shiitake mycelium occurred up to ¾ inches into the stump and up to 2 inches into the 16-inch log. The shiitake mycelium did not occur in the sapwood layer which was occupied by competitors, so it is doubtful that any shiitake mushrooms will be produced.

Fifteen chestnut oak stumps were inoculated using shiitake spored oil delivered by a chainsaw. A 16-inch log that had been inoculated on both ends with spored oil delivered by a chainsaw as each end was cut, was then set on top of the stump. The top end of the log received one of the following treatments:

Shiitake: SSH1 = No covering on top of log set on stump

Shiitake: SSH2 = Freezer paper covering*

Shiitake: SSH3 = lumber end wax covering

 

*In March of 2012 Mr. Beckerle placed a second covering of freezer paper on top of the logs, because the first had nearly disintegrated due to the adverse effects of weather.

The study was arranged in Randomized Complete Block Design. Three stumps, each with a different treatment, were randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study had 5 randomly distributed replications, with a total of 15 stumps.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Meeting for county extension agents at Jackson's mill

Woodlands Stewards tour, September 2012

County Agent Extension tour, October 17, 2013

Master Gardener and general public tour, October 17, 2013

Presentation to West Virginia Herbal Association, November 16, 2013

Society of American Foresters' tour planned for fall 2014

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

When considering future research it is important to remember that the primary purpose for the production of spored oil was to make it easier for people to use stumps for mushroom production. Mr. Beckerle used logs in the five experiment to avoid having to use stumps over wider areas. This reduced the number of variables influencing the experiments as well as providing another way of using logs where access is poor. This use of logs may be more economical and saves time opposed to transporting logs to a central location for techniques that rely on spawn inoculation. Timing of the setup may influence success in a number of ways. The sugar content of logs is higher in when trees are dormant, for oaks this commonly assumed to from October 1 to April 1. The amount of spores in the air is lowest in the dead of winter,which to some suggests February as the best month to inoculate logs.

However, where drought is a serious issue such as the stump experiments it may be more advantages to inoculate logs and stumps in October or November. This would allow the mycelium more time to colonize the log and stump, which would likely make it better able to survive in the dry summer months. A general lesson from the experiments is that at least some treatments need to be both more durable and more drought resistant in the field on stumps than in the log yard with the advantages of artificial shade, more protection from wind and deer, potential for irrigation and soaking of logs, and other management techniques.

Ordinary paper helps the desired spores to germinate and the initial mycelium to spread over the ends of logs. Without this added food source for the desired spores and mycelium, weed fungi and molds can be much more of a problem. In the log experiments above, (Aspergillus spp.) was more of a problem than anticipated in the lumber-end-wax treatments. Paper lacks durability and is often not as effective in retaining moisture in the logs as some wax treatments. Thus a paper and wax treatment is indicated. For an alternative to wax, Mr. Beckerle has considered a number of post consumer plastics. Freezer paper was used in four of the five experiment, in part because it provided a relatively sterile source of paper. Newspaper was not used, because the potential for mold and fungi spores found on them could present and additional variable. Fortunately, some newspaper printers have newspaper end rolls left over after each printing of their newspaper(s). Newspaper end rolls often contain enough newspaper, to provide a product consistent enough and sterile enough be considered for a research project. With enough consistent newspaper product, one could consider using newspaper in between the logs of a totem pole. Rather than just putting paper on the top end of a log on a stumps, newspaper could be placed between a log and stump.

Synopsis: In mountainous terrain the relatively small number of similar sized stumps that can be made available on any one bench or short slope with the same bedrock, soil and other factors imposes a severe limit on the total number of stumps that can be used in any one experiment with a minimum number of replications. Therefore the number of treatments is often limited. From observable factors other than production of the desired mushrooms, four of the above experiments showed a value for the use of paper coated with plastic (freezer paper) and lumber end wax. Those experiments also showed a need for more moisture retention.

For a future study at least one 12 to 15 stump experiment by Mr. Beckerle will have a configuration similar to the following: Treatment 1: Control: logs set on top of stump without any paper, wax or plastic added Treatment 2: Stump, layer of newspaper (preferably the unprinted newspaper from a newspaper end roll), log, layer of newspaper, a thick plastic cap like covering. The plastic will most likely be obtained from the bags that were previously used to make round bale silage. Treatment 3: Stump, layer of newspaper, log, layer of newspaper, layer of lumber end wax (to both cover the newspaper on the top of the log and to help hold the plastic layer to the top and sides of the log), a thick plastic cap like covering. The stumps would again be cut/leveled using a chainsaw with spore infused oil for lubricating the bar and chain. The logs would be cut with the same chainsaw. If spore infused oil was not available, then spore printed paper to introduce the desired spores to the logs and stumps would be used.

REFERENCES Macrofungi Associated with Oaks of Eastern North America by Denise E. Binion, Steven L. Stephenson, William C. Roody, Harold H. Burdsall, Jr., Larisa N. Vasilyeva, Orson K. Miller, Jr. Published by West Virginia University Press, Morgantown, 26506 Copyright 2008 by West Virginia University Press. 467 pages

Medicinal Mushrooms, A clinical Guide by Martin Powell. 2010 Mycology Press 128 pages Mushrooms for Health, Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Fungi by Greg A. Marly 2009 Published by Down East. Distributed to the trade by National Book Network. 143 pages

Mycelium Running, How Mushrooms Can help Save the World by Paul Staments 2005 Pulblished by Ten Speed Press, Berkeley. 344 pages.

The Mushroom Cultivator by Paul Staments and J. S. Chilton The Fungal Pharmacy,

The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms & Lichens of North America by Robert Rogers RH(AHG), FICN 2011. Published by North Atlantic Books 591 pages Shiitake Grower's Handbook by Paul Prxybylowicx and John Donoghue. 217 pages

The Complete Mushroom Hunter, An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff. 2010 Published by Quarry Books. 192 pages.

Potential Contributions

MANAGEMENT AND FUTURE RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS

Environmental benefits

One of the requirements of a SARE grant application is to provide information on the environmental benefits of a project. The potential for growing mushrooms on stumps and logs by using spored oil encourages the use of biodegradable oil instead of petroleum based oil which is toxic to spores. It usually takes one gallon of oil to lubricate the bar and chain of a chainsaw for every ten to twelve loads of firewood that a landowner produces.

By 2013 many of the totem poles and a few stumps had exfoliating bark. A number of bats use exfoliating bark as roosting sites. When exfoliating bark is lacking, the red bat will roost in the leaf layer, making the red bat more exposed to the weather and predators. In 2014 a couple biologists will be visiting Mr. Beckerle's farm to look for bats. He will ask them to look at the exfoliating bark of the totem poles. Some pollinators use dead trees and may use the old totem poles.

POTENTIAL USES FOR BRACKET FUNGI AND OBSERVATION LOGS

The treatments with spored oil, also called spore infused oil, did not yield the desired mushrooms. Only the treatments that included spawn yielded the desired mushrooms, either oyster or shiitake depending on which spawn was used in the treatment. Since the production of oyster and shiitake mushrooms was supposed to be the primary means of evaluating the various spored oil treatments, it is now evident that some other methods should be included to better evaluate the various treatments in any future studies, for example:

Bracket fungi should be harvested and weighed to show which treatments result in less or more water retention. A few fungi such as Turkey Tail, (Trametes versicolor), False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea) and Hairy Parchment (S. hirsutum) are in themselves of value for medicinal purposes. Of these three, Turkey Tail is the most tolerant of dry conditions. For more information on these mushrooms, see references.

More logs of each treatment that are not directly part of each experiment may be needed. These can be used to weigh, dry, and weigh again to calculate current moisture percentage. Having up to 30 extra logs extra logs for each treatment proved to be less informative than having 50 or more logs. One effect of stacking 50 plus logs in a short row of standard shiitake log ricks is at least 30 logs ends facing one direction and 30 log ends facing the opposite direction. This can have the same effect of looking at a screen with 30 pixels instead of the former 2 or 3.   Or looking at a big screen instead of a small screen. The big picture effect or big screen effect is what gave Mr. Beckerle a better idea of what the black mold (Aspergillus spp.) was doing to the still relatively new mycelium from oyster mushroom spores on the ends of logs covered with lumber end wax. In the treatment on extra logs for shiitake there was less of a big picture effect, in part because there were only 30 logs and the logs were not as well arranged for one's eyes to get a big picture effect.

Observations

Stump treatments need stronger protection than shaded log treatments. Lumber end wax and freezer paper proved to be far less durable on the stump treatments than on the ends of logs under shade. In prior tests Mr. Beckerle used post consumer plastic from various bags and wrappings. The plastic from round bale silage is durable. Disposal of used plastic from from round bales is a problem for some farmers. Therefore testing this durable plastic on one or more stump treatments could be advantages to both cattle farmers and mushroom growers.

The use of chestnut oak meant that some of the dryer sites on Mr. Beckerle's farm were used for the shiitake stump experiment. A somewhat less sure, but usually very productive producer of shiitake is yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). It occurs on some of the most moist sites on Mr. Beckerle's farm and is abundant enough to be considered for experiments in the future.

Black birch (Betula lenta) also grows on moist sites. In Mr. Beckerle's experience Black birch can also be used to grow shiitake if aged aged at least a month before inoculation. If the wintergreen smell is still present when a new drill hole or other cut is made, shiitake spawn treatment will usually fail. In Mr. Beckerle's experience, Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) can used to grow shiitake, but must be aged for two or more months. Yields on sassafras have been low, so inoculating sassafras at this time is interesting, but not profitable.

Mushroom choices of special interest to Mr. Beckerle

Shiitake is more drought tolerant than oyster. Shiitake mushrooms bring more money per ounce than oyster mushrooms. Oyster is more drought tolerant than hen-of-woods (Grifola frondosa) and lion's mane (Hericiun erinaceum) which is also known as POM POM mushroom. The latter two can be grown on stumps and bring more money than shiitake on a per ounce or per pound basis.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.