Progress report for FNE21-974
Forest farming of mushrooms is an agroforestry practice than increases crop diversity while providing diversified income for farmers and other forest owners. Mushrooms can be an integral part of sustainable forest management by using selective thinning practices and utilizing tree services in your region to acquire hardwood logs. There is strong consumer demand for forest grown mushrooms and unmet demand that should allow for the successful entry of new producers here in the Northeast and also all over the United States. A major goal of this project is to continue to implement small scale production of these varieties of mushrooms and to monitor their actual cost,labor, and income.This will allow us to develop recommendations and predictions based on actual real world on site farm data rather than theoretical production/marketing data . Furthermore, no other project or publication that I am aware of has this emphasis on proper forest management, creation of revenue streams and food production systems by utilizing agricultural waste products while leaving behind little to zero waste.
Outdoor mushroom cultivation will have multiple positive effects across the board for any farm that has access to a forested area. Growing mushrooms outdoors has a very small environmental impact in comparison to indoor facilities in energy consumption and has lower health risks due to fresh air and wind in the forest providing natural air circulation. There is insufficient research on varieties of exotic mushrooms that cannot be fruited indoors but have potential for outdoor cultivation. These species include, Laetiporus sulphureus, Lepista nuda, Fistulina hepatica, Polyporus squamosus, Tiger sawgill, and Grifola frondosa. These varieties of mushrooms are growing in demand in the US as foraged and wild products are becoming more widely known and recognized. This trend can provide an opportunity for farmers to take advantage of these new and diverse food products as they break into the market and food industry. This can directly impact the farming community by providing a new source of income, networking opportunities, and direct to market collaborations with local chefs that are always seeking out new culinary products. Our research will provide farmers with a greater knowledge base that expands on previously established inoculation techniques to put into practice. Hardwood logs and wood chips can be acquired through local tree service companies that are looking to get rid of freshly cut logs as they usually have to pay to dispose of wood. This method of outdoor mushroom cultivation will also help farmers to develop a greater appreciation for protecting their forested lands as they will provide amazing opportunities to grow highly medicinal edible mushrooms.
- - Technical Advisor
Sterilized laboratory grade spawn will be purchased from mycologist Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain, Chris Wright of Easygrow Mushrooms, and professor Shane Mulholland of University of Michigan who is also the owner of Forest Organics LLC. Each one of these spawn suppliers offers different types of mushroom spawn that will be researched to further study which strain selections fruit the best and have high yields. Each log will be labeled with aluminum tags stating variety, inoculation date, and which spawn supplier is used on each one. Fistulina hepatica"beefsteak fungus", Polyporus squamosus"dryads saddle", Tiger sawgill, Laetiporus sulphureus"chicken of the woods", and Grifola frondosa"hen of the woods" will be inoculated in completely separate zones inside of our fenced in forest mushroom yard. All together there will be 150 logs with the control being 25 per variety as oak is the preferred wood for these mushrooms using wooden dowel spawn, drilled then each inoculation point will be covered with high grade wax, labeled with aluminum tags stating exact date of inoculation, spawn supplier name, and variety. All together there will be 150 logs with the control being 25 per variety.
The logs will then be partially buried 1/3 of the way standing up to help with moisture retention and incubated by covering each log with large paper leaf bags for exactly 60 days and allowed to rest and observed until the mycelium colonizes the wood. Each one of these varieties has very different spawn runs that may take up to two years to colonize while having to be monitored weekly and misted during the dry seasons using a water backpack sprayer to ensure that the logs do not dry out and cause the mycelium to die off. After each of these strains fruits all of the fruiting bodies of each variety will be weighed after harvesting and notes will be recorded as to which spawn works the best for each variety. Notes will be taken as to which strains from each spawn providers has the highest yields and also colonization and fruiting periods will be compared as well.
We ordered all of our laboratory grade spawn from Trad Cotter of Mushroom Mountain and Easygrowmushrooms. Unfortunately Easygrowmushroom as a company never sent our spawn but we were fortunate since Mushroom Mountain proved to be a very reliable and trustworthy. Our inoculation tools were all sourced from Field and Forest Products which is another amazing mushroom business that is very friendly and helpful. I contacted one of the tree service companies that we source hardwood logs from and they were more than happy to deliver large quantities of recently cut hardwood oak logs which were perfectly suited for our inoculations. We proceeded to inoculate 150 oak logs with all of the sawdust spawn, labeled them and allowed them to rest on wooden pallets to prevent any other type of fungi or bacteria from attempting to colonize the wood. The next part of the process involved crib stacking the logs and placing fruiting blankets on them to simulate darkness to help speed up the colonization process of each type of mycelium. As of this month I am monitoring moisture levels in the forest and have been misting the logs on weeks when we did not have any rain.
During this past year I have definitely increased my knowledge in operating chainsaw equipment and becoming more proficient working with different types of trees and hardwood logs for mushroom cultivation. We have become increasingly aware of the enormous amount of agricultural wood waste like hardwood logs and woodchips that are just disposed of not only in our area but surely all over North America that could have a secondary use for growing high quality forest crops of mushrooms. Learning about different tree species has also become an invaluable tool for identifying the correct logs for use in this type of cultivation. Through my observations I have also noted that oak logs should produce mushrooms for a longer periods of time as opposed to other hardwoods due to their composition they tend to break down at a slower rate. This method of mushroom cultivation also teaches you to have patience as once the task of inoculation is complete, you must wait a substantial amount of time to see mushrooms fruiting which is not to discourage anyone but something to keep in mind with theses processes.
The relationships that we are building with our tree service companies and people in our community have been vital to get all of our mushroom logs inoculated. It proves my theory that tree service companies would prefer to find someone that will allow them to drop off trees at their location as opposed to having to pay to dispose of these high value logs which they consider waste. Establishing community networks is also a way for us to build good sincere relationships with people while reducing the amount of agricultural waste that ends up in landfills. This has enabled us to continue our experiments and in the future expand our mushroom operation as we now feel confident in the sourcing of these materials to help us to continue to grow.
This season six of our chicken of the woods mushroom logs fruited giving us a harvest of 16lbs during the summer. The same logs fruited again in October giving a harvest of 12Lbs. Our maitake are completely colonized and have been partially buried in woodchips. These mushroom logs have not fruited yet unfortunately. Ten of the tiger sawgill mushroom logs fruited all within a few days of each other. Each log gave us a harvest averaging about 1.2lbs for each log with a totat weight of 12.1lbs. The mycelium still seems to be running through all of the other logs which is a good sign of complete colonization but the other varieties have not produced and fruiting bodies. The fastest colonization period observed was when temperature shifted from 60*F to 80*F which are ideal temperatures for healthy mycelium development.
This summer we had to mist all of our logs weekly as rain was very minimal to ensure our mycelium did not dry up inside of our logs and helped promote healthy growth. The only pest that has been observed in the mushroom yard are slugs but very minimally after heavy rain events. I spoke to a three chefs in my area and they are all very excited to be able to purchase these exotic culinary mushrooms in their restaurants.
Our inoculations went according to plan but one thing that I did learn is that when dealing with different spawn suppliers is that not all vendors are honest and had a supplier take our grant funds and never sent us our material. The lesson being that we will use reputable suppliers moving forward and advise anyone getting involved in mushroom cultivation do so as well.
Successful cultivation of these new experimental varieties is going to take time as we learned how difficult it is to acquire specialty spawn. More spawn producers will be needed over time to continue tissue breeding and collecting more diversity to help with yields, flavor profile and shelf life within each variety of mushroom. If more new growers show interest in growing these varieties it should motivate spawn producers to explore providing more selection in their spawns.
Promotion of these species through active cultivation by other farmers will also improve selection over time and increase demand for markets as well. Proper labwork will need to be executed to be able to culture more specimens and get a better understanding of the life cycles of each strain in different microclimates. As more farmers begin to cultivate these mushrooms in a variety of different microclimates we will begin to better understand and increase our quality and yield of mushrooms.