Alternative growing practices for oyster mushroom cultivation in the Northeast

2015 Annual Report for FNE15-825

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,095.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Willie Crosby
Fungi Ally

Alternative growing practices for oyster mushroom cultivation in the Northeast


Our project is trying to find low input, safe, and accessible methods of preparing straw for oyster mushroom cultivation. We ran this trial three times this year with four different methods of straw preparation: pasteurization, lime soak, wood ash soak, and fermentation. The yield was recorded and the biological efficiency (B.E.) of each method was calculated. Contamination rates were also measured and compared between the four treatment methods.

With the data collected during the trials this year we believe that home scale mushroom growers can use any of the four methods successfully. Each method produced mushrooms but the B.E. and contamination rates varied significantly. For commercial farmers pasteurization OR the lime soak technique have acceptable B.E. and contamination rates to be viable for consistent and productive production.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The three trials were successfully run this year using 6 different strains. We adjusted the weight of each bag to 10 lbs rather than 20 lbs. All bags were filled with 10 lbs of substrate and 1 lb of grain spawn. We successfully recorded the use of 6 different strains some wild from New England and some commonly used commercially. The highest yielding strains were Elm A and VDE1 pink oyster.

Our first objective for this project is to Quantify the most effective treatment method for straw used in oyster mushroom cultivation for small-scale mushroom farms in the Northeast. We have sufficient data to do this and simply need to compare the inputs of each method compared to the yields. This will be presented in our completed guidebook.

Our second objective for this project is to Record how different strains of oyster mushrooms respond to the different pasteurization techniques. Which has been completed and summarized above.

Our third objective is to Publish and distribute a guide for oyster mushroom cultivation in the northeast. We have not begun this guide but have the data and completed the research to create it in the upcoming year.

We were able to present on this topic at the NOFA summer conference but postponed any outreach and on farm tours to the coming spring in order to finish the research and compile the data.


All four treatment methods produced mushrooms and are viable for a small scale hobbyist grower to use. Pasteurization and lime treatment had the highest B.E. and lowest contamination rates. Both seem viable for commercial production of oyster mushrooms. Both fermentation and wood ash were less consistent and did poorly in the summer when temperatures are higher and contamination is a larger issue.

Three trials were conducted and data recorded for each of the trials. Harvest amounts per day and ending contamination rate were recorded. Now B.E. needs to be calculated and the data compared to understand which method has the highest success rate.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The impacts of this study have been minimal thus far because the data has not been fully analyzed and shared with the mushroom cultivation community.

In 2016 a guide to oyster mushroom cultivation for the northeast will be published and made available to the public. This will allow growers of all levels to see the results of our trials and understand what the best method for their operation will be.

We have found that of the four trials fermentation is the most accessible and easiest to perform. The maximum yields will not be achieved with this method but it works sufficiently to grow mushrooms. Growers at the home scale can use this less intensive method to grow mushroom for themselves and their families. On a commercial scale we recommend using either pasteurization or lime soak in order to maintain consistency and high yields.

We have also worked with several growers to identify high yielding strains of oyster mushrooms which would improve the B.E. for each of the four trials. The highest yielding strains we recommend at this time are Pleurotus salmoneostramineus VDE1, Pleurotus ulmarius ElmA, Pleurotus ostreatus 3015, and Pleurotus ostreatus 123.


Dylan Kessler

[email protected]
Fungi Ally
159 Bay rd
Hadley, MA 01035
Office Phone: 9783820226