Grains for mushrooms growers

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2026
Grant Recipient: Doubting Thomas Farms
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Noreen Thomas
Doubting Thomas Farms


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal summary:

Specialty mushrooms are a small but growing segment of the
mushroom industry and suitable for small producers.  Most
specialty mushrooms are being grown in white millet, rye and
soybean hulls. White millet is grown in Colorado or imported
during droughts. We want to test grains like winter wheat, oats,
buckwheat, and yellow millet that can be locally grown. Replacing
grains or materials like soybean hulls with buckwheat allows
regional farmers to raise niche grains for direct markets. Most
grains pass through at least five hands before the end users. The
old handbook on mushroom growing has not been updated, nor has
any research been done on other grains.  When Noreen's son
started growing mushrooms over 14 years ago, he found success in
growing on various grains, which made us ask if we could use
other grains. The possibility of using low protein winter wheat,
buckwheat, oats, and yellow millet will help us diversify our
grain production by adding new markets, and we can use cover
crops such as winter wheat. We also will monitor flavor as no one
knows how different grains affect mushroom flavors. We will grow
oyster mushrooms, because it is fast-growing and used in culinary
meal preparation.

Project objectives from proposal:

Solution- We will compare the productivity of yellow millet,
buckwheat and winter wheat as certified organic mushroom growing
substrates. The grains will be grown, combined, and cleaned at
Doubting Thomas Farm in Moorhead, Minnesota and shipped to R and
R cultivation in New Hope, Minnesota. The grains will be
sterilized and then inoculated with spores of oyster
mushrooms.  We chose oyster mushrooms because they are
fast-growing and can go from spores to mushrooms in 2-3
weeks.  We will record the fruiting times and total
production for each grain and repeated the experiment several
times. The mushrooms will be sent to a chef in Fargo and one in
Minneapolis who will evaluate the quality of mushrooms grown on
different grains. After testing individual grains, combinations
of grains will be tested, and the "recipe" will be written down.
The test will be repeated using combinations of our grains and
looking at the mushroom color, poundage produced, and the timing
of fruiting. From there, more combinations and trials will evolve
out of the first tests.  We will make adjustments to the
grain mixes as we receive data from the early test results and
repeat the procedure.  We will use an Excel sheet to compare
grains and grain combinations. By comparing the weight of
mushrooms produced on different grain substrates, we will start
to calculate a cost of production, and we will know which grain
substrate will be the most profitable. Grower bags will be
prepared and have testing involving growers testing the for
fruiting and production. The chefs will determine any flavor
difference in-kind. All the work will be combined, and decisions
will be made by retesting.


  1. Determine what grains serve as the best substrate for growing
  2. Determine which combinations of grains provide the best
  3. Develop specs for farmers wanting to grow grains for the
  4. Figure out baseline pricing to the mushroom grower and fair
    to the farmer
  5. Figure out best practices for shipping organic grains while
    keeping integrity in place
  6. Help stabilize the cost of grain by being a regional farmer,
    then outsource to large companies
  7. Pictures as well as notes, will be collected on the way for
    other growers and mushroom growers
  8. Share findings with others at the winter conference or
    research poster board
  9. Share findings through on-site tours, presentations,
    conferences, and field days.
  10. Gather info on flavor of mushrooms good or bad, when
    switching grains from chefs. ( Andrea Baumgartner and Sean



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.