Morel Mushroom Cultivation in an Urban Setting

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $14,995.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Cultivating Bliss Farm
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Gladys Davis
Cultivating Bliss Farm


  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Comparing efficacy of substrates and production methods in developing morel mushroom fruiting bodies in elevated raceways. Project seeks to 1) assess cost to serve ratios, 2) reproducibility for commercial production; 3) affordably advance cultivation; 4) decrease pressure on wild mushroom stock.

    Research on morel production has begun with Dr. Gregory Bonito of Michigan State University LNC19-416: Cultivating a morel mushroom industry in the North Central United States using in-ground rows established in high-tunnel, low-tunnel and forest settings in the North Central Region. 

    This project seeks to expand on Dr Bonito’s work for potential use in an urban setting, comparing the efficacy of two mediums as substate and the necessity of their sterilization in production. The project will use elevated raceways, placed outdoors, in lieu of in-ground rows, as most urban land contains lead and other contaminants.  

    Financial constraints remain the major barrier of entry to farming for socially disadvantaged and historically marginalized beginning farmers. This project will compare the

    We seek to investigate:

    1. Can Morchella Sextelata be successfully cultivated in elevated raceways, making them a viable specialty crop choice for urban vertical stratified production?
    2. Can morels be cultivated with minimal start-up expenses, making them a viable choice for socially disadvantaged and historically marginalized farmers?
    3. Can morel mushroom production methods be replicated and scaled vertically to generate market level harvests and thereby generate profits?

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Plastic milk crates will be stacked on a concrete, two high and 3-4 wide to form a platform. Beds are elevated for ease of observation and harvesting while minimizing ground level contamination. Plywood sheathing panels will be placed atop the milk crates, and covered with a layer of 3mil Black Plastic before lining plot with landscaping fabric to form the base of the plots. The plastic will protect the plywood, extending the functional life of the plots, while the fabric limits erosion. Platforms will be arranged in a North-South orientation, allowing beds to receive the late morning sun, begin receiving shade at 1:00pm with complete shading attained at 2:00pm. Vita 48" W x 48' L White Raised Garden, (with dividers forming 16 quadrants) will be assembled atop the plywood. Two boxes will be assembled and joined, such that, they function as one continuous 4 x 8 foot plot for a total of 4 plots. A utility knife will be use to cut an "X" though the fabric and plastic in the center of each quadrant before a ¼" drill bit will be used to drill a drainage hole; thirty-two holes per plot. Row covers will be constructed using Greenhouse Hoops for Raised Beds and covered with shade cloth. Substrate sterilization is completed in a 100L Atmospheric Steam Sterilizer according to operation specification. 

    Morchella sextelata sawdust spawn will be obtained from Dr. Gregory Bonito of Michigan State University.  Each plot will be inoculated from its own dedicated spawn block to avoid cross contamination. Investigator will wear sterile neoprene gloves and inoculate each quadrant of the plot with spawn to a depth of 4 inches in 9 evenly spaced sites via Inoculation Stick.  After inoculation, substates will be covered using a layer of Scotts Premium Top Soil to a depth of 2 inches and a layer of black plastic sheeting will be laid over the soil.

    • Plot #1 will have a substrate of purchased Mushroom Media Masters Mix. The 20 pound bags will be mixed with filtered water, to the desired consistency (hand squeeze method) and Sterilized according to equipment specifications before being placed in plot.
    • Plot #2 will have a substrate of purchased Mushroom Media Masters Mix. The 20 pound bags will be mixed with filtered water, to the desired consistency (hand squeeze method) Unsterilized.
    • Plot #3 will have a substrate of Sterilized mixed wood chips obtained from the St Louis Department of Forestry, "Free" mulch site in Carondelet Park. 
    • Plot #4 will have a substrate of mixed wood chips obtained from the St Louis Department of Forestry, "Free" mulch site in Carondelet Park. Unsterilized

    One filtered water drip irrigation system will be installed to supply all 4 plots. Plots will be monitored for moisture levels and observe growth changes. Beds will be maintained between 50-60% moisture content. The black plastic row cover sheeting will be used for protection and to contain moisture during the formation of conidia. Small slits will be made every 3 feet for ventilation. 2-3 weeks post inoculation, sterile  "Nutrient bags" will be cut once using a sterile knife. Bags will be placed, cut side against the soil, every 2 feet in each plot. At this stage, the plastic sheeting cover will be replaced by hoops covered with shade cloth for improved ventilation while providing ongoing protection from contamination and predation.

    Project Objective: compare fruiting body development on substrates to determine 1) which substrate produces the highest yield with the lowest production cost and  2) which substrate has commercial production viability, determined by reproducibility and scalability. 

    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.