This project has 5 objectives:
- Increase the number of species available for commercial mushroom growers in the Northeast. By broadening the types of mushrooms growers can cultivate there will be less competition with large farms and an increase in overall mushroom products available.
- Increase profitability and longevity for mushrooms farmers. Rather than focus on just shiitake and oyster mushrooms, keep small farms on the cusp of new mushroom species that can be cultivated.
- Expand the market for mushroom farmers. Allow mushroom farmers to move into the high value market of supplements and medicinal agricultural products.
- Educate farmers and consumers what cordyceps is and how it is grown.
- Improve health through consumption of agricultural products. Instead of looking towards synthetic compounds produced by pharmaceuticals allowing people to use naturally occurring compounds to address health.
Farmers will benefit by
creating excitement about a new product that has a growing following. increasing income without a large increase in labor or infrastructure having access to a highly potent medicinal mushroom
Cordyceps is one of the highest valued mushrooms cultivated in the world currently. The US market for cordyceps is rapidly growing in the supplemental and herbal markets, generally higher value markets than fresh produce. This creates an opportunity for growers in the northeast to diversify their products while serving a growing market demand. This study will look at basic production variables including substrate, strain, and jar size, measuring the impact of each on yield. Cordyceps militaris is a species that grows in the northeast, wild strains have been cloned and should be tested for viability with commercial practices. Substrates commonly used in India and Thailand will be tested to see which works best with the strains
available. We will follow these trials up with extensive outreach and education so potential farmers can learn the methods of cordyceps production. This outreach will be conducted by on farm tours, webinars, a free published booklet, and a video discussing the process of cordyceps production.
Fungi Ally produces about 400 pounds of mushrooms per week and conducts mushroom research and education. There is a huge market with medicinal mushrooms being sold as supplements that farmers may be able to benefit from. Cordyceps is a very popular mushroom in that market, this research came out of the ideas of how to tap into that market and offer a different product with connection to the producer of the crop.
This project will explore the commercial viability of growing Cordyceps militaris. We will conduct
various tests on strain, container, and substrate. With this data we can push forward with
the commercial production of this potentially economical medicinal mushroom. We will be testing
5 different strains, three different substrates, and three different containers.
This will happen in three different phases:
1.Trialing strain and substrate,
2. Trialing fruiting container, and
3. Finally continuing education and outreach.
1st Phase: This phase consists of trials with different strains on different substrates (food sources) to
gain data on what is the most productive strain and what is the best substrate to grow them on. Each
strain will have nine jars total with 3 jars of 3 different substrates.
March 1st 2018- Prepare, sterilize and inoculate 45 pint sized jars. Nine jars per strain, five different
strains, three jars per substrate/strain combination. We prepare these jars by drilled a 5/16” hole in
the lid of a mason jar. After this hole is drilled, it is stuffed with polyfill and trimmed to make a
filter. Rice is added at the bottom of the container. Three different nutrient mixtures are mixed into
three separate bowls and added to each set of jars. The lids are then screwed on, labeled and added
into a pressure cooker. This pressure cooker is run at 15 psi for 90 minutes. After this time the pressure cooker is left to cool and then in the laboratory under a sterile flow hood they are inoculated with the five different strains of cordyceps mycelium (DNA clone of the mushroom) by a
trained lab technician. Once they are all inoculated, they are clearly labeled again and placed in the
dark at 65 degrees fahrenheit to let the mycelium (roots of the mushrooms) colonize the substrate.
This colonization process should take 30 days.
March 1st – April 1 2018 – Analyze and record colonization speed.
April 1st 2018 – Transfer these jars under fruiting conditions which is at 60 degrees fahrenheit and
under led lights on a 12/12 light timer (12 hours on, 12 hours off).
April 1-May 1st 2018 – Record fruiting speed (how long it take to go from full colonization to
May 1st 2018 – Harvest and record yields and record data. Weigh both fresh and dry mushrooms.
Analyze data and build graphs to present in easy to understand manner. Find out the best strain and
the best substrate.
May 15th – We would then host a free webinar after we gather the information, to present this
information to the global community.
Phase 2: Once that phase is complete we will do trails on what is the best container to grow the best
May 1st 2018- Prepare, sterilize, and inoculate 144 samples in three different containers (48 in three
different types of containers.) The pressure cooker is then cooked at 15 psi for 90 minutes. After
this time the pressure cooker is left to cool and then in the laboratory under a sterile flow hood the
containers are inoculated with cordyceps mycelium (DNA clone of the mushroom) by a trained lab
technician. Once they are all inoculated, they are placed in the dark at 65 degrees fahrenheit to let
the mycelium (roots of the mushrooms) colonize the substrate. This colonization process should
take 30 days.
May 1st- June 1st 2018- analyze and record speed of colonization.
June 1st 2018 – Transfer these containers under fruiting conditions which is at 60 degrees fahrenheit
and under led lights on a 12/12 light timer (12 hours on, 12 hours off).
June 1st- July 1st 2018- analyze and record speed of fruiting.
July 1st 2018- Harvest and weigh out yields, conclude the best container based on data. Weigh the
mushrooms both dried and fresh.
Strain and substrate trials were critical. We ended up using a single substrate formula to eliminate variables and continue to build on existing knowledge base. Of the five strains tested only 2 fruited well. The most productive strain was from a clone from a cordyceps mushroom in Asia. With cordyceps strain seems to be extremely important and in Asia where this mushroom is cultivated for the culinary market they have spent years in strain development. For this reason I recommend using the SDSB strain.
|Strain||substrate weight||Mushroom weight||
Average mushrooms per gram of substrate
From this trial I found producing just cordyceps mushrooms will not be a viable economic crop. If also processing and selling the substrate of the cordyceps it is possible to make this product economically viable. It is not like other agricultural crops as it is a specialized market that is willing to pay a higher price and typically requires processing. Strictly sold as a fresh mushroom cordyceps is still not an economical crop. A process which greatly reduces manual labor would need to be developed.
3 containers were trialed. Jars, bags, and trays. It was possible to fit many more bags into the pressure cooker at once but colonization was extremely slow or did not happen. This process may work with liquid culture but with agar transfers the wedge consistently got stuck on the plastic above the substrate. This prevented the mycelium from ever jumping off into the substrate. Trays were successful in crop production but a smaller amount of substrate could fit into the pressure cookers. During this process we determined glass pint jars are still the best current container for production.
Both fruiting and incubation were very simple. This is one of the advantages to cordyceps cultivation. They require very little environmental adjustments for both incubation and fruiting. Fruiting was done in a converted walk in cooler that maintained temperatures at 65. During the summer one round of production which had started pinning was completely aborted because the AC turned off for 4 days. Temperatures spiked into the 80’s and all pins were aborted. These jars never fruited.
This study aimed to look at basic cultivation practices like strain, container, and substrate formula. I decided not to look at substrate formula and to focus on strain and container use. Strain is a critical piece to success with better yields coming from strains which have been developed for commercial production, these are mostly available in Asia. This study also aimed to find out if cordyceps is an economically viable mushroom for farmers to produce. I think this greatly depends on the market available to the farmer and the potential for processing on or off the farm. If substrate is used as well as fruiting bodies, processed, and marketed as a US grown supplement with mushroom fruiting bodies production can be economically viable.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
One on farm consultation demonstrating the process of growing cordyceps and likely challenges and opportunities.
One on farm demonstration in which 10 people attended.
one online webinar conducted by Willie Crosby and William Padilla-Brown attended by 20 people
A guidebook on production and economic viability is being developed.