Spent Mushroom Substrate as Fertilizer
2015 was primarily spent gathering resources, preparing the spent substrate so that it was suitable for application to the plots, and getting base line information that will allow us to monitor any change in soil composition throughout 2016, and determine if those changes were a benefit to each growing area or individual crops within those areas. Confinements were built to store spent mushroom substrate and allow the weathering process to occur. Spent mushroom substrate was removed from the grow rooms after all mushrooms were harvested and placed in the confinements where it sat for up to a year before initial applications were made. After the farmers had harvested all the crops for 2015, soil sampling was completed with twenty cores taken from each plot to give an overview of each one. A dump trailer was purchased which allowed us to transport 4000 lbs of spent mushroom substrate to the farms in one trip and made application to the fields very easy. Spent substrate was place onto the plots at roughly an inch in depth and left to further break down over the winter months. Soil sampling and another application will be completed again in spring before crops are planted.
The primary objective for this project was to decrease the waste that my farm produces by finding alternative uses for it. To date all inputs except for the plastics we use have been saved from the landfill. We take trees that have been damaged, diseased or are unwanted and use them to grow our crops. After all mushrooms have been harvested the remaining substrate is removed from the grow rooms and deposited into the confinements. While in the confinements beneficial bacteria, fungi and insects feed off of the substrate breaking it down and leaving us with a dark and airy mixture. By reaching out to farmers and speaking about this project we have gained a lot of interest from others about adding spent mushroom substrate (sms) into their operations which will help us continue to create less waste as the mushroom farm grows.
The largest accomplishment has been the outreach we have done to further the idea of using waste from one business to help another operate in a more sustainable fashion and at a lower cost while maintaining or improving quality of food produced. I have gained so much interest that I have sold all excess sms not set aside for this project at a price that almost matches my input costs for the ground wood. This has allowed me to increase profits already. So far everyone who has purchased it has commented on the quality of the product and how inexpensive it is compared to other products they have used. Hopefully once they see the results they will be even more inclined to buy my product in the future.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
I believe that incorporating spent mushroom substrate into farming practices is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the relationships between mushroom cultivators and those who cultivate plants and animals. We see these relationships in nature and so we should practice them in the field. Hopefully the information we gather over the next year will break way for new and innovative solutions to the ethical production of food and the nurturing of nature that will allow us to feed ourselves far into the future and fix the thinking of industrial agriculture. The impacts have already been seen in my farms operation and in my community. Trees that would have been burned or discarded in the dump have grown high quality food and now we will grow more food off of that waste which would have ended up back at the dump. And when that vegetable crop is harvested I plan taking this idea one step further and incorporating the left over waste from the vegetable farms into my next mushroom crop making the relationship that much more efficient.
Red Hawk Farm
14701 N 134th St
Waverly, NE 68462
Office Phone: 4025604558
Cook Grow Sew
2833 N. 57th St
Lincoln, NE 68507
Office Phone: (402) 370-5898