Integrated Forest Farming: Medicinal Herb Cultivation, Mushroom Production, and Forest Restoration

Final Report for FNE99-286

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 1999: $7,995.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
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Project Information

Summary:

Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE99-286

The primary focus of this project was the establishment of ginseng in challenging conditions: The land was sharply sloped on a south-facing hillside and the surrounding trees, primarily oak, dropped leaves that tended to smother the ginseng and make the soil too acid. The soil itself was low in nutrients, and was either sandy or yellow clay.

Grid tests of the soil revealed a PH of less than 3.0 in most areas, with low organic matter and no calcium or magnesium. Soil retention was poor. Three tons of lime ware applied and worked into the soil; large quantities of organic matter, made up of commercial mushroom compost, horse manure, sawdust, straw, and leaves was also added. Raised beds were constructed up and down the slopes through hand digging, and more than 400 threes were planted in places where the canopy did not offer enough shade.

The beds were planted in the fall and soil amendments were added until the moisture levels were suitable for woodland herbs. In the spring of 2000, goldenseal and ginseng were healthy and vibrant. Shitake mushroom logs proved beneficial where the canopy was light and could be moved around as needed. These logs will integrate into the beds as they decay. They proved a valuable resource, producing 25 to 50 pounds of mushrooms a week in season.

Nearly 1000 mushroom logs have been inoculated and 15 lbs. of ginseng seed, 40 lbs. of goldenseal root starts, and 50 lbs. of black cohosh have been planted. Other woodland plants—maidenhair fern, beech fern, wood lily, yellow lady slipper, jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, and anise root—have been introduced. The land appears to be restored and should continue to improve.

Predation on trees and plants has been a problem. The first planting of trees resulted in a near total loss die to drought and deer predation; deer also ate about a quarter of the ginseng. A solar powered electric fence eliminated deer damage, and a second planting of trees and plants is expected to return healthy in spring 2001.

Outreach has included two tours of the site, discussions at Soil Conservation meetings, workshops, and a conference specific to ginseng in Catskill, NY.

Early findings indicate the importance of high levels of organic matter and calcium for these plants: Beds with higher concentrations offer plants with better color and general health. Tree growth on the site has been enhanced after soil improvements, and erosion has been eliminated. Water retention is also greatly improved. It has been demonstrated that ginseng can be grown successfully on a south-facing slope, and that it can turn unproductive hillside land into a sustainable production site. The process shows promise in the restoration of land that has been subjected to surface mining, although the reforestation would take more time.

Reported November 2000

Cooperators

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  • David Cooke

Research

Participation Summary
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.