Cultivating the Wine Cap Mushroom While Building Soil Health and Suppressing Plant Disease – an Innovative and Economical Approach to Two Common Agricultural Problems

Project Overview

FNC17-1070
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Field & Forest Products
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Lindsey Bender
Field & Forest Products

Information Products

Commodities

  • Vegetables: tomatoes
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms

Practices

  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, conservation tillage, cover crops, double cropping, intercropping, multiple cropping, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, water management
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: biological control, competition, integrated pest management, mulches - general, physical control
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems, permaculture
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Summary:

    We proposed to evaluate an innovative, accelerated strategy for increasing soil organic matter and soil microbial activity by adding a decomposition specialist fungi to process raw organic amendments and to suppress plant disease while cultivating a cash crop of mushrooms. We sought to use this study as a platform to educate farmers on the importance of maintaining and improving soil health in sandy soil regions.

    Our objectives were:

    1) Test the ability of the wine cap fungus to speed up the process of increasing soil organic matter by adding organic material to soil surface.

    2) Test the ability of the wine cap fungus to decrease disease severity, improve plant health, and increase tomato yields.

    3) Evaluate the monetary value of adding a secondary mushroom crop to existing plant agriculture systems.

    To address and test these objectives, we designed experimental plots and systematically collected data for statistical analysis.  Based on our data, we were unable to provide statistically significant results to support objective 1 and our hypothesis that the Wine Cap mushroom would improve soil health within a short (two year) time frame.  Objectives 2 and 3 were fulfilled.  We found that although there was no statistically significant difference in disease presence in tomato plants grown with or without Wine Cap, the plants were healthier and yielded more tomatoes in the presence of the mushroom.  Lastly, the mushrooms produced in the second year of this study resulted in a profit of $392.40.  We conclude that the measurable benefits of the Wine Cap mushroom, ease of growing, and profit from mushroom sales is worth consideration to farmers.  

    The concept and results of this study were disseminated through a variety of means – lectures, workshops, farmer consultations, social media, research poster display, and a podcast episode. Over 1000 growers benefited from this project and can now adopt the recommendations concluded in this report.  

    Project objectives:

    We propose to evaluate an innovative, accelerated strategy for increasing soil organic matter and soil microbial activity by adding a decomposition specialist fungi to process raw organic amendments to suppress plant disease while cultivating a cash crop of mushrooms. This project is especially important because it provides a platform to educate farmers on the importance of maintaining and improving soil health in sandy soil regions.

    Our objectives are:

    1) Test the ability of the wine cap fungus to speed up the process of increasing soil organic matter by adding organic material to soil surface.

    We are testing this through an experimental design which will allow us to measure changes in soil health parameters including microbial activity and soil organic matter. Our results will allow us to make statistical comparisons and draw conclusions based on changes in microbial activity and soil organic matter between treatments measured over the two year study period. We expect that treatment plots growing the wine cap fungus will have higher soil organic matter and microbial activity than control treatment plots with no wine cap fungus, with or without organic matter additions. Any increased changes can be attributed to the Wine Cap addition. 

    2) Test the ability of the wine cap fungus to decrease disease presence and severity in tomato plants.

    Plants will be evaluated on a biweekly basis during the growing season for disease presence, disease severity, plant vigor, and tomato yield. We expect that tomato plants in treatment plots polycultured with the wine cap fungus will have decreased disease prevalence in comparison to control treatment plots with no wine cap fungus. 

    3) Evaluate the monetary value of adding a secondary mushroom crop to existing plant agriculture systems.

    We will be harvesting mushrooms fruited from each of the experimental plots and record yield. Economic benefit from this secondary crop will be calculated based on the local market price of $12/lb of Wine Cap mushrooms.

     

    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.