Modified Use of Spored Oil for Profitable Production of Mushrooms

2012 Annual Report for FNE10-678

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2010: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Lawrence Beckerle
Mountaintop Quail Farms

Modified Use of Spored Oil for Profitable Production of Mushrooms


Goals of project:

1-a.) Make better use of waste wood generated by farm maintenance and timber stand improvement projects. Demonstrate the feasibility of producing mushrooms on wood that is often wasted, burnt to ashes, just to get rid of it. Crooked, short, small logs are generated during normal farm maintenance activates, for example: building fences, clearing out old fence lines, reducing shade at the edges of cultivated fields, and maintenance of roads and utility right-of-ways, and creation of wildlife openings. Small and/or short diameter logs are also created during TSI (timber stand improvement) projects. Removal of defective trees helps to give high quality lumber tress more room to grow and allows nut and fruit producing trees to produce more food. Alan Perky author of Crop Tree Release explained TSI by concentrating on first selecting the trees that are to be released, thus his title: Crop Tree Release. It is published by West Virginia University. Note that in West Virginia, “In the past 30 to 40 years, about 3 million acres’ worth of farmland have been allowed to revert to forestland.” (Gary Foster, DNR’s game management supervisor in “DNR asks hunters to kill more deer” by John McCoy in the Charleston Gazette 2-27-12) Much of this land now has pole size trees. Thinning out pole size timber helps forestland to reach timber size trees in a much shorter time frame than pole size stands that are not thinned. Note also that all of the trees used had one or more features that made them less than desirable for timber production and thus were representative of the kind of trees that would be removed during TSI, for example: A few had rot throughout the length of the tree making them unsuitable for even log cultivation of mushrooms. However, most of these had stumps that were sound if cut low enough to the ground. Plenty of 16” logs were generated from other trees, so all sound stumps were used. Two stumps that were hollow, but without active rot, were used in the totem pole experiment. 1-b.) Test live stumps as buffer and as an alternative to irrigation. Setting logs on live stumps has two intended goals: The live stump serves as a buffer between the cultivated fungi in the log or totem pole and the fungi in the forest organic layer and topsoil. The live stump serves as a source of water to the desired fungi growing on the 16 inch log (or logs in Totem pole experiment). 1-c.) Preserve each live stump along with the roots that are half of each tree’s biomass. Only half of a tree’s biomass occurs above ground. The other half in the stump and roots can be preserved for future wood production, if the stumps are cut low to the ground. A couple of the treatments included in this project require or at least encourage the landowner to cut stumps low to the ground. Low cut stumps result in stump sprout regeneration that is often more vigorous (fewer disease and insect issues). Plus the trees that result from low cut stumps (preferably less than 6 inches high) are of a higher quality than the far fewer trees that result from stumps that are left high. For brevity, the low stump goal/incentive was left unstated in the original proposal, but this side effect of some of the treatments is worth noting now that those results are becoming more evident. Branches were put around stumps to protect sprouts and mushrooms from deer. Without the promise of mushroom production, landowners are unlikely to take the time to protect oak sprouts from deer browse. When the sprouts are eliminated the root mass for a whole tree dies. Within 30 years, red maple increased by 400 percent in Pennsylvania due to excessive deer populations. To counter this trend, it is important to take countermeasures to help prevent the loss of important species. 1-d.) Meet human food and health needs with lower costs. Because of the large human population in the northeast, there have been a number of efforts to encourage farmers and small woodlot owners to grow mushrooms. Some of which are valuable in preventing cancer. Others are reportedly valuable in combating diabetes and other health issues. However mushrooms production can be very labor intensive. This project seeks to demonstrate how to greatly reduce the amount of labor needed to produce mushrooms. In some treatments the need for soaking logs is eliminated. In all the treatments used in this project, the need for drilling and plugging is eliminated. The need for artificial shade is eliminated in a number of forest environs. See the answer to question number 4 for more on these details. 1-e.) Simplify mushroom production One goal of this study is to simplify mushroom production, so that it is not necessary for small woodlot owners to understand the biology of fungi. With a couple of my methods, they can just cut a few trees, set one or more short logs (preferably 16” to 18” long) on a stump and be on a course to profitable production of mushrooms. 1-f.) Benefit the environment by reducing pollution and finding less destructive ways to grow food. Part of the environmental goal was showing how biodegradable oil could be an advantage to farmers and woodlot owners. Finding new ways to grow food on forested land also reduces the need for cleared land. You don’t have to take down the forest to grow food. Food growing can be used to protect the forest, help clear up pass damage, promote timber production as well as nut, berry and fruit production. Rockiness and steepness of the land are no obstacle to producing food when a live stump can be leveled to serve as a platform for growing mushrooms.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Farm update

No advanced contracts for quail, so plan to go another year without raising bobwhite quail. In the absence of this income, Mr. Beckerle obtained a part time off the farm job to help pay bills. Signed application for high tunnel program. Signed application for program that encourages farmers to do a 50 percent release on timberland that is suitable for growing forest medicinals and some other forest crops. Note that a 50 percent release provides some brood habitat for upland game birds. It also results in increased nut, berry and fruit production on crop trees. Mowed field (about two acres) of goldenrod around old home place so as allow winter annuals to grow to help feed deer through winter months of 2011 to 2012. Return of annual warm season weeds in summer of 2012 will provide brood habitat for upland game birds. A dairy goat farmer has expressed an interest in renting this and adjoining old pasture (about ten acres) Have new bee equipment in storage, but will wait to raise these once the farm tour requirement for the SARE grant has been met. The proposed area for setting the hires is close enough to the hoop shade house for the two log experiments that some visitors might consider annoying. The farm now totals about 330 acres. About 290 acres is leased both from and managed for relatives. About 315 acres of the farm is forestland and managed for future timber production. About 15 acres is in other uses. The various units have been put into one farm operation due to a requirement by the WV Division of Natural Resources (DNR). DNR requires a minimum of 300 acres for people to get a permit to operate a game farm. At present, it is not practical to operate a game farm in this area. In a few more years it may be practical to offer a place where older hunters can come and hunt bobwhite quail and other upland game birds. Mario Morales is now in Indiana. His role as technical advisor is primarily to help insure that work is done in a manner that will permit the results to be published in scientific magazines and journals. His current phone number is 765-586-1239. His e-mail address is


Spored oils is a registered trademark of Fungi Perfecti. The use of spored oils began about twelve years ago. There are a number of ways to put spores into oil. The other methods were not tested in this project, because that would involve additional variables beyond the scope of this project. It was also simpler to use a commercial product, so readers of this report can begin their own mushroom production with the techniques described below and in the original proposal. 50 cc of spored oil was mixed with a gallon of BioPlus, which is close to a 70 to 1 ratio. (This mixture was used for all cuts to stumps and logs used in this project, which consists of five experiments.) BioPlus is a registered trademark of the makers of Stihl chainsaws. BioPlus is used to lubricate the bar and chain on chainsaws. In earlier mushroom growing work, Mr. Beckerle used sunflower oil to both lubricate the bar and chain of a chainsaw and to act as a carrier for spores. Sunflower oil was less expensive than BioPlus, and is usually only available in the fall in the area where Mr. Beckerle lives. When using sunflower oil as the lubricant for the bar and chain of a chainsaw, the tank of lubricant empties earlier than the gas tank on a chainsaw and thus can lead to bar and chain problems. To avoid these risks and any threat to the spores by an overheated bar/or chain, BioPlus oil was used for this project. Please note: the petroleum oils that are normally used in chainsaws will kill the spores. So if you, the reader, are going to attempt any of this, you’ll either need a new chainsaw or use one of several methods to clean petroleum oil out of the tank for lubricating the bar and chain on your chainsaw. Regardless of the biodegradable products used, the basic principle is the same: As the chainsaw cuts tree off the stump and into logs, some of the vegetable oil (and the spores in that oil) is deposited on the stump and ends of logs. In the literature that accompanies the spored oil product from Fungi Perfecti, there is a suggestion to put some sawdust on the stump after cutting it. Part of the original concept was that one might go into an area recently harvested, cut the top off the stumps using a chainsaw that has some spored oil in a biodegradable lubricating oil. Thus an attempt to make use of stumps that otherwise would just rot away without producing anything useful to eat. For a number of reasons, the window of opportunity to do this is short. Plus the time when the trees are harvested is often more suitable for fungi that produce mushrooms that are inedible. Timing is a factor, but so are other variables, such as the amount of sawdust or various slices of fresh cut wood that Mr. Beckerle used as a cap for stumps. While there was promise, the results were too unreliable for a profit motivated enterprise. Thus the stump experiments were set up to limit variables, interference from factors that have kept stumps from being reliable producers of edible mushrooms. When a red maple (Acer rubrum) tree dies primarily from the top down, the death of the tree is hastened by the upper portion of the tree wicking moisture from the still living lower parts of the red maple tree. If for some reason the dead portion breaks off, that tree will live longer than the previous example. When that tree dies, it often break off at near the base area of the tree, because the roots and/or mycelium that run through them keep the wood rotting fungi in the lower portion of the tree better supplied with moisture that the upper portion. The ability of roots and base of tree (normal stump area) to supply moisture to the wood above normal stump height, both through wicking action and mycelium may supply more moisture than irrigation. The area used for the stump experiments experienced a hot fire in 1985. Thus many of the stumps are hollow or have rot near the base of the tree. Thus there was a need to cut stumps low to the ground to get below the rot on a number of red maples. While the butt end of these freshly cut trees couldn’t be used in the experiments, logs taken from further up the tree often could be. For all five experiments, logs sixteen inches long were used. All red maple logs were cut in early February using oil containing spores of oyster mushroom. There was deep snow on the ground. Logs were allowed to dry off on the ends before enhancement treatments began. This was necessary for the lumber end wax treatments. It may be better to do the freezer paper treatment earlier, but that kind of testing will have to wait for another day. Chestnut oak logs where cut in the weeks after the maple logs were cut During those weeks the advantage of snow covered ground for reducing potential for contamination was lost. During the weeks between cutting of maple and chestnut oak nearly a gallon of BioPlus oil without any spores added was used in the chainsaw for cutting trees to support future firewood sales. The intent was to clear out any oyster spores that might interfere with the Shiitake experiments. STUMP EXPERIMENTS (Oyster and Shiitake on relatively small stumps) Numbering of stumps and randomization of treatments for stumps were done by Mr. Mario Morales. Mr. Beckerle set logs and applied treatments. On some of the larger logs, Mr. Morales put on rubber bands while Mr. Beckerle held the freezer paper in place. The controls logs were set upright on stumps with no enhancement on the top end of the log. (There was no sawdust or wood cap placed on top the log). Logs were set so what was originally the upper end of the log became the top end. What was the lower end of the log became the lower end as it was set on the stump. For the freezer paper treatment, logs were placed on the stumps as for the controls, then freezer paper was put on the top end of the log and secured with a rubber band. The paper side of the freezer paper was put on the log. The plastic side thus faced the elements. In prior tests by Mr. Beckerle mycelium of oyster and shiitake grew very well on the paper part of freezer paper. For the lumber end wax treatment, the wax was brushed on with a paint brush. The wax used is called Anchorseal. It is very easy to use and inexpensive, when compared to other waxes. Anchorseal is a registered trademark of U-C coatings ( Anchorseal can be sprayed or brushed on. Unlike most waxes used for mushroom production, there is no need to heat this wax. Best results are achieved at temperatures above 40 degree F. The formulation used had glycol in it to prevent it from freezing while in storage. Five reps were set up for both oyster and shiitake experiments. One extra red maple log was set on a sourwood stump (Oxydendron arboreaum) An extra rep of oak logs were set on stumps of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis or B. lutea). TOTEM POLE EXPERIMENT (oyster mushroom) In the totem pole method as described by Joe and Mary Ellen Krauczyk of Field and Forests Products, oyster spawn is placed between logs that are set inside a black plastic bag. Logs are generally ten inches or more in diameter. Once colonization is complete, this totem pole is taken out of the bag and set in the ground. When freezer paper is used, it is placed with the plastic side towards the spawn. Note that this is opposite of how Mr. Beckerle uses freezer paper. Because of deep snow, the original area chosen for the totem pole experiment was deemed too far to walk to and back with a chainsaw. The newer area chosen for the totem pole experiment in on a northern slope dominated by timber size red maples, followed by black birch, sugar maple, white ash, and then oak. The red maples chosen for the experiment had one or more serious defects and needed to be removed as part of timber stand improvement. In the two weeks after cutting began, a couple trees broke off at more or less at mid height, helping to prove the need for removal of defective trees. New logs cut from these new candidate trees was used to replace logs that had been driven into the ground by the tops that fell to the ground. After trees were cut down, they were cut up into sixteen-inch long logs. The best were used for the experiment. The rest have or will be used for firewood. Two holes were dug near two stumps. Where an old root wall existed, two holes where dug in the depression created when the root wall was formed. The holes were deep enough so the bottom was below the topsoil layer with all of its competing fungi. In each hole, a black plastic bag was placed in it. Holes were then made at the bottom of the plastic to allow drainage and to allow oyster mycelium to reach the earth in a future search for water. In one hole as the control, four sixteen inch long logs were set on top of each other. In the other hole as a kind of positive control, oyster spawn was placed on the bag and then a sixteen-inch log placed on top of that, followed by spawn on top of it and then another log, until the totem pole was four logs high. The same two placements occurred on the top of two stumps that had been flattened enough to permit the stacking. Six reps were used. Mr. Beckerle did all the numbering, randomization and setup for this experiment. Mr. Beckerle discussed with his technical adviser, Mario Morales PhD, the advisability of putting a wooden cap on each of the totem poles. Mr. Morales was against the idea. When in a couple weeks, Mr. Beckerle again brought up the idea, Mr. Morales liked the idea. Mr. Beckerle then checked the condition of the caps, which by then had deteriorated. By then the sap had risen enough in the maple trees that any new caps that might have been cut would have been likely to lose their bark. Thus the cap wood idea was left out of this experiment. LOG EXPERIMENT (oyster and shiitake on small diameter logs) Logs were sorted by diameter. Aluminum tags were attached to the logs with outdoor quality screws. Large, colored thumb tacks were considered, but deemed to be too easily knocked off. Mr. Morales did the numbering, randomization work. Mr. Beckerle applied the treatments. Three treatments are similar to the stump experiment described above. Here the logs are laid horizontally and enhancement treatment was done on both ends of each log. The control logs had nothing put on the ends. The freezer paper was placed on both ends and secured with rubber bands. For a positive control, spawn was put on both ends of each log and then covered by freezer paper with the paper side against the spawn. For scientific purposes, there was also a treatment that entailed putting spawn on the ends and then covering that with lumber end wax. This proved to be a time consuming treatment. The spawn was more difficult to slice into thin layers than in previous years. The moist spawn kept the wax from drying properly. So wax paper, which is more porous and cheaper than freezer paper, was used to cover the wax so as to allow it to dry. 4 reps were used for the oyster experiment with red maple logs. In the following days the extra maple logs were waxed on both ends, primarily because that was so easy to do. The intent was that these logs could be used for mushroom production or used as sample logs to give to attendees after a farm tour. Ironically these logs showed better mycelium growth than those in the experiment. As a result of these early observations and an adequate supply of logs, Mr. Beckerle and Mr. Morales decided to do six reps for the shiitake log experiment.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The early, uniformly rapid growth of white mycelium that could be easily seen under wax coating and freezer paper gave hope for dramatic results. However, once a few specks of black mold appeared, it quickly covered most of the white mycelium. There is more shelf type fungi than anticipated. These contaminants will cut down on the yield potential of the logs that they occur on. Mushroom production occurred only on treatments that used oyster spawn. When mycelium joins a log to a stump, the log is much more stable. Mycelium between the maple log and sourwood stump was ropey in appearance. Winters of 2010 and 2011 were exceptional for the amount of snow that fell, around ten feet total for the winter of 2010 and several feet for 2011. The total precipitation for 2011 exceeded 60 inches. With ample rain in the spring, gypsy moth numbers are usually reduced. Instead of a reduction, Gypsy moth larvae infestations were great enough to kill a few oaks and perhaps mortally weaken many other oaks. The stump experiments (shiitake and oyster) are located on a southwest facing slope near the top of a ridge. Oak is dominant near the ridge top. In 2011, each oak tree loss 50% or more of its leaf area due to feeding by larvae of Gypsy moth. This leaf loss was more serious for the shiitake experiment on stumps, because it was placed near the top of the ridge. The stumps with oyster treatments are lower on the slope, where there is less oak in the canopy. Any success on the dry mountain side may help to prove just how valuable live stumps are to growing mushrooms. Differences between treatments may be greater on a dry site, because there appear to be differences in how well logs retain moisture with each treatment. Note: A log yard for growing mushrooms is preferably located on an East or Southeast facing slope. This provides early morning warm up and helps to protect the logs from the hot afternoon sun. The totem pole experiment is located on a north to northwestern facing slope that has timber size trees to provide good shade to totem poles. Note that this project did not include temperature monitors on the logs. It would have been interesting to have a record of the temperature of the logs on stumps, logs in the totem poles, and logs in the hoop shade house area. Shiitake mycelium is killed at temperatures above 104 F. If a pattern of shelf fungi develop on the south and west sides of the logs set upright (vertically on stumps and totem poles) that will suggest to Mr. Beckerle that those logs were heated above 104 F on the side or sides on which shelf fungi grow. The lumber end wax is very easy to use and inexpensive. However the ends of the log need to be reasonably dry for it to quickly form a seal. In warm weather, oyster mushrooms go quickly from fresh market quality to that suited only for dried mushrooms. As fresh mushrooms, oyster can be breaded, fried and then dipped into cocktail sauce. As dried mushrooms, oyster can be ground into a powder and then included when preparing food. Need at least another season of study to see mushroom production on Shiitake and oyster mushroom treatments that did not include the use of spawn. Nevertheless, the experiments are far enough along to begin outreach activities, including a tour of the farm in the summer or fall of 2012. Weather is harder on lumber end wax on logs set in an upright position, then logs set in a horizontal position. Extra contamination on oak logs may be due in part to gypsy moth damage done in the year prior to cutting. May be due to the fact that it was done later in winter than the oyster experiments, when there was no longer a snow blanket over everything. Or may be due to some other factors, such as the early use of burlap to shade the logs instead of suspended 70 % shade from well above the logs that was installed at a later date. Dr. Barbara Liedl showed me pictures of a high tunnel made out of 1.5 inch diameter PVC electrical conduit pipe. Each hoop consisted of three 10-foot long pipes that had been joined together. The ends were set on galvanized pipe that had been driven into the ground. Hoops were joined by cross members. The entire structure was covered with plastic. The complete design is to be published in the coming months. I modified this design to fit the need for shade of the log experiment. Two PVC conduit pipes were joined by a 45 degree angle joint. This served as the top arch of the structure. The open end of each pipe was set on the shaved end of a small locust post, so that the base would be about 13 feet wide. The center is 6.5 feet high. These arched hoops where set four feet apart. Seven arched hoops were put up. (Cost of these materials was around $100.) This structure was then covered with 70% shade cloth. This inexpensive design may be useful for raising bobwhite quail in the future.


Dr. Mario Morales
Mountain State University, Medicinal Botanicals Program
410 Neville St.
Beckley, WV 25801-4511