Quantifying the capacity of Wine Cap mushroom cultivation to enhance soil health, improve vegetable crop value and increase farmer profitability

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $9,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Field & Forest Products
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Lindsey Bender
Field & Forest Products

Information Products


  • Vegetables: tomatoes
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, cover crops, double cropping, forest farming, intercropping, no-till, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Soil health is critical to sustainable agriculture and nutrient dense food production. Many agricultural soils are unhealthy and standard practices like tilling, fertilizing, soil compaction, and over production, are exacerbating the problem.  In order to improve the health and potential of our soils to ensure our future food demands are met, we need to make sustainable changes.  This project proposes to evaluate the use of an innovative method for soil improvement while increasing crop productivity, food nutritive value, and income revenue for farmers.  The use of the Wine Cap mushroom as a soil builder shows promise from previous research.  New research in nutrition indicates that mushrooms contain Ergothioneine, an important antioxidant linked to longevity and healthy aging.  While mushrooms are the primary source of Ergothioneine, evidence suggests plants grown in healthy soils or alongside fungi have increased Ergothioneine concentrations. Wine Cap (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) is simple to grow, highly productive, and has significant potential for farmer crop diversification.  This study is a collaborative effort between experienced mushroom farmers, University researchers, and the agricultural community.  This project will provide quantitative data and a project-based avenue for educating farmers about the benefits and ease of mushroom cultivation, which evaluating the application of mushroom growing to improve soils and plant crops. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to evaluate the use of the low cost, organically grown Wine Cap mushrooms to improve soil health, reduce the need for tilling, weed control, and watering while increasing crop health, productivity, and value (increased through increased nutrient density and Ergothioneine content.

    Our objective are:

    1. Test changes in soil health in response to Wine Cap mushroom cultivation through field testing
    2. Measure Ergothioneine content in response to Wine Cap
    3. Evaluate the economic benefits of this innovative approach
    4. Involve and educate farmers to promote mushroom industry growth through field days, social media, and consulting
    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.