- Miscellaneous: mushrooms
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
This research project intends to find use for the substantial amount of waste wood (logs and stumps) that the management of a hardwood lot or farm in Appalachia generates. Most farmers have a chainsaw for clearing brush from fields and pastures, releasing crop trees, or cutting firewood. The standard practice is to use petroleum based oil to lubricate the chain and bar of the chainsaw. It takes about one gallon of petroleum-based bar oil to cut ten loads of firewood. The farmer who would never think of pouring a gallon of petroleum oil on the ground may spread several gallons over his farm in a year. A farm in the mountains of West Virginia that uses firewood as the primary source of heat will typically burn a dozen or more loads of firewood per year. If we multiply this by the thousands of small farms that exist across the Northeast we can perceive the magnitude of the environmental damage this is causing not only in the Northeast but also in several other regions of the country.
The Mountaintop Quail Farm, located is in Nicholas County, West Virginia, has 220 acres of mostly forested land managed for timber and firewood production and wildlife habitat. Forest harvest and maintenance generates excess wood (stumps and logs) that could be used to produce mushrooms. To supplement income, since 1985, we have been growing mushrooms on a limited scale using some of this excess wood. The limitation comes from the amount of labor that current mushroom production techniques demand. If labor demand could be reduced by inoculating the wood as it is being cut and inoculant protection techniques are adopted, then we could produce mushrooms on a larger scale.
If profitable, these techniques could be implemented by the many small-farm owners that live across Appalachia and help increase the rural family income. As a result, three objectives are accomplished: 1) prevent environmental contamination with petroleum oil, 2) perform maintenance activities on the forest farm, and 3) inoculate wood for mushroom production. Due to labor demands and significant expenses of current mushroom production practices, farmers grow them but on a limited scale to supplement income. If labor demand and costs are reduced by inoculating the wood as it is cut and innovative techniques are used to protect the inoculants, then many small-farm owners that live across Appalachia could produce mushrooms on a larger scale and improve the family income.
Mushrooms will be classified according to market grades and prices so that gross income can be estimated. Production expenses and gross income will help determine whether the activity generates a significant net income. Interpretation and discussion of the results will be published in newsletters and journals, posted on a website, and presented at symposia, workshops, field days, and seminars across West Virginia so that, if effective, small-farm owners can try these new mushroom production techniques on their properties.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project proposes the use of biodegradable oil to which mushroom spores have been added so that it can not only lubricate the bar and chain of the chainsaw but also inoculate the wood as it is cut. This way three objectives are accomplished: 1) prevent environment contamination, 2) perform maintenance activities on the forest farm, and 3) inoculate wood for mushroom production as trees and branches are cut.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the spored biodegradable oil at inoculating wood and the protecting agents to facilitate and promote mycelium growth, we propose five studies:
Study 1: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs in Totem Pole Arrangement,
Study 2: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs,
Study 3: Shiitake (SH) on Logs,
Study 4: Oyster Mix (OM) on Stumps, and
Study 5: Shiitake (SH) on Stumps.
Treatments will be single or combined applications at log ends of spored oil and sawdust spawn, which will be covered with freezer paper, lumber-end-wax or nothing (control). Studies will be arranged in Randomized Complete Block Designs with 4 or 5 replications each. We will collect yield data by recording mushroom weight and number and calculating average mushroom weight per log (sub sample) and per replication. Data will be analyzed using standard statistical procedures to determine whether treatments are significantly different.
The methodology to perform these studies is as follows:
Study 1: Oyster Mix on Logs in Totem Pole Arrangement For the cultivation of Oyster mushrooms it is common to use the totem pole method. The bottom log is set into the ground like a post. Sawdust spawn is placed on top of this log and then another log is placed on top of it end to end. With five 16-inch logs stacked vertically in this manner, the totem pole would be about six feet high. All logs will be cut using spored oil in the chainsaw. The five logs in each of the totem poles will receive one of the following treatments: -TOM1 = No spawn in between the logs (control). -TOM2 = Sawdust spawn in between log ends (standard method). -TOM3 = Totem pole on top of a stump. -TOM4 = Totem pole on top of a stump with spawn in between log ends. The study will be arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design. Four totem poles, each treated with a different treatment, will be randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study will have five randomly distributed replications, so the experiment will have a total of 20 totem poles.
Study 2: Oyster Mix (OM) on Logs and Study 3: Shiitake (SH) on Logs Logs will be stacked on pallets to prevent soil contamination and reduce variability. Used pallets are sometimes available for just the time and cost to pick them up. A stack of logs is often referred to as a rick. A pallet can hold two small ricks. With five treatments and four reps, 20 ricks will be needed for Oyster Mix and 20 ricks for Shiitake. Red maple logs will be used for the Oyster Mix. Oak, most likely chestnut oak, will be used for Shiitake. One humidity blanket will be needed for each. The humidity blanket is used to speed initial mycelium colonization. It is used again during mushroom formation. Moisture content in logs needs to be 45–60% for good mycelium growth and fruiting yield. Logs will be watered as needed. A water line will be run from a spring up on the hill to a drip irrigation system in the log yard. The Mountaintop Quail Farm relies on shade trees, including pine to protect Shiitake logs. Shade from trees is not uniform enough for research purposes, so 70 % shade cloth will hung above the logs to protect them from excessive drying. The pipe used to hold up the shade cloth can support double layer plastic. Double layer plastic will be used in the colder months to extend the season for mycelium growth, so that logs will be ready for mushroom production on the second year of the experiments. Double layer plastic will also be used to extend the season for producing mushrooms. All logs with be cut using spored oil in the chainsaw. The five logs in each stack will receive one of the following treatments: Oyster Mix: -LOM1 = No covering on log ends (control) -LOM2 = Freezer paper on log ends -LOM3 = Lumber-end-wax on log ends -LOM4 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with freezer paper -LOM5 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with Lumber-end-wax Shiitake: -LSH1 = No covering on log ends (control) -LSH2 = Freezer paper on log ends -LSH3 = Lumber-end-wax on log ends -LSH4 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with freezer paper -LSH5 = Sawdust spawn on log ends covered with Lumber-end-wax Each of these two studies will be arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design. Five stacks, each with a different treatment, will be randomly assigned inside a replication (block).
The study will have four randomly distributed replications, so each study will have a total of 5 logs x 5 treatments x 4 replications = 100 logs, so 200 logs will be needed for studies 2 and 3.
Study 4: Oyster Mix (OM) on Stumps and
Study 5: Shiitake (SH) on Stumps Stumps with be cut using spored oil in the chainsaw. Fifteen of the stumps will be red maple which will be inoculated with Oyster Mix and other fifteen will be oak stumps which will be inoculated with Shiitake. Stumps will receive one of the following treatments: Oyster Mix: -SOM1 = No covering on stumps (control) -SOM2 = Freezer paper covering -SOM3 = Lumber-end-wax covering Shiitake: -SSH1 = No covering on stumps (control) -SSH2 = Freezer paper covering -SSH3 = Lumber-end-wax covering The study will be arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design. Three stumps, each with a different treatment, will be randomly assigned inside a replication (block). The study will have five randomly distributed replications, so each of these two studies will need 15 stumps. The time of grant awarding is critical for the starting of this project.
During late spring and summer (May 1–August 15), the tree bark is slick and comes off so easily that mushroom production is usually adversely affected. Logs for growing Shiitake are normally cut between October 1 and April 1, because the nutrient (sugar) content of the sapwood of the logs is more favorable for growing Shiitake. There are also fewer spores of contaminants in the air during winter months than in the summer months. January and February are often the months with the lowest spore counts in the air. Logs to be used for oyster mushroom cultivation are often cut in the summer months but can be cut also in the fall and winter months. For work in the cold months, it will be helpful to have a chainsaw with the option of heating the carburetor and handles.
The system works off the ignition system and adds about $80 to the cost of a chainsaw. The system is available on chainsaws manufactured for professionals. Professional chain saws are generally easier to cut with and have less vibration in the handles. Vibration can lead to operator fatigue, accidents, and problems with joints in the fingers, hands arms and shoulders. The oil pumps are generally of a better quality, producing a more uniform application of oil. That more uniform application will then also help to ensure a more uniform application of spores. Because oil from petroleum can kill spores, it is prudent to use a new chainsaw for this study. A semi chisel chain generally gives a smoother cut, which may aid in the uniformity of wax application and extend the life of waxed paper. I currently use a professional chainsaw with an 88cc engine. For this study, I propose the use of a chainsaw with a 52cc engine.
A bottle of spored oil is generally mixed with 5 gallons of biodegradable bar oil. In this study, one bottle will be mixed with 4 gallons of biodegradable bar oil. One gallon of the nine gallons to be ordered will be used as a buffer between the work with Oyster Mix infused oil and work with Shiitake infused oil. More background: The production of edible and medicinal mushrooms has been hailed as a likely income source for small farmers (Stamets 2000, Leatham 1981). Of the many mushrooms that have been suggested, the greatest demand is for Shiitake mushrooms. On a lower scale are the Oyster mushrooms, which are easier to grow.
The statistical service for the United States Department of Agriculture monitors the production of Shiitake. Anyone with 200 logs or more is considered to be a commercial producer. This may seem low until one realizes just how much work goes into the production of mushrooms. Various types of spawn and tools have been invented to lower the work load for the producer of mushrooms. In spite of this, the production of mushrooms is still quite labor intensive and so most producers remain quite small. Spawn is a term that generally refers to both the mycelium and the medium on which the mycelium grows. It is used by growers to get a mushroom producing fungus started in logs or a bulk substrate. There are a number of variations of spawn. The most common are grain spawn, sawdust spawn, wooden plug spawn and thimble spawn. Wedge spawn and rope spawn are examples of products that are currently out of use. The invention of spawn techniques took Shiitake from being primarily a wild collected mushroom to its current status as widely cultivated mushroom. Total world production has been reported to be in the billions of dollars (Leatham 1981). Thus spawn is considered to be a significant advancement over the use of spores for inoculating logs to produce mushrooms. However, advancements have been made in the use of spores for inoculating growth mediums.
The one that is relevant to this study is the practice of using spores in the bar oil of a chainsaw. Bar oil lubricates the chain and bar as the chainsaw cuts through wood. Some of this oil is deposited on the wood as it is cut. When a vegetable oil or other biodegradable oil is used as a bar oil, it becomes possible to deposit viable spores onto the wood as it is cut. When oil is infused with spores it is referred to as spored oil. Spored oil is available only for a few species and only from Fungi Perfecti, a company owned and operated by Paul Staments. Because he developed this product, he has a trademark on Spored Oils. There are two spored oil products for deciduous woodlands: One for Shiitake and one that may contain “one or more of the following: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Maitake (Grifola pulmonarius), and Pearl Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus). For the rest of this proposal, the later shall be referred to as Oyster Mix. According to the Fungi Perfecti catalog, Mr. Staments developed these products for use on stumps. Spored oil as a product has been available for about ten years. It is sold as an option for inoculating stumps. For the mushroom grower it is fun to try, but the chance of success is very uncertain. If the method were to be developed into an economically viable alternative, then the mushroom grower could consider it as a commercial enterprise. It is much easier to do and potentially less expensive. In theory, $29.95 of spored oil can be used to inoculate a thousand logs or even two thousand logs. It takes $500 or more of spawn to inoculate a thousand logs. The above example is only for the purpose of showing an order of magnitude as there are many variables, such as concentration of spores and inoculation rate for spawn. In the above, a log is figured as16 inches in length and five inches in diameter. A mushroom log can be any diameter or length that the grower chooses to use. Most growers of Shiitake use lengths of 30 to 40 inches and diameters of three to five inches.