Improving Compacted Soils with Stropharia Mushrooms

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $13,081.00
Projected End Date: 02/29/2020
Grant Recipient: Brady Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:


  • Vegetables: cabbages, cucurbits
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: no-till, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Agricultural soils everywhere face performance decline from erosion, poor drainage, compaction, and loss of organic matter. Poor soils can take many years to rehabilitate. Compaction is a significant problem, especially for urban farmers attempting to reclaim previously developed land. Remediating compaction and affording soil improvement techniques are critical for all farms seeking to be economically sustainable, and is the emphasis of this project. The goals are threefold: assess the effectiveness of wood chips as soil amendments; measure the benefits of Stropharia rugoso-annulata (wine cap) mushrooms to mitigate soil compaction; and assess marketability of two novel products. The first two goals are accomplished by comparing effectiveness of five different soil amendments to improve soil microbial activity, available nitrogen, soil nutrition, compaction, and crop yield. Treatments include ramial and mixed hardwood chips inoculated with Stropharia; naturally decomposed ramial and mixed hardwood chips; and an untreated control.

    Eight repetitions of the treatments are each planted in lemon cucumber and cabbage, then beets. The second goal is accomplished by surveying customers who purchased lemon cucumbers and winecap mushrooms from the farm. Outreach occurs by three methods: offering factsheets and experimental tours through a county-wide Farm Day, submitting results to local agency newsletters, and hosting workshop and tours for farmers, gardeners and students interesting in improving soils or growing Stropharia mushrooms and/or lemon cucumbers. The desired impact of this work is to bolster regional knowledge of soil amendment techniques using easily attained biomass and market viability of new agricultural products for growers in the Northeast.


    This project will use a combination of on-farm demonstrations, a workshop and newsletters to share the process and outcomes of the research with other local farms and the general agricultural community. The Brady Farm is a local outlet for colleges and gardening groups seeking hands-on demonstrations and information about small-scale agriculture. It’s location in the middle of the City of Syracuse makes it accessible for many groups. The farm will host at least 6 garden and college groups and will include information about the project in those tours.

    The Onondaga County OnFarm Fest will be held in early October 2018. During the fest, the public is invited to tour farms across the County, including other farmers, would-be farmers, and gardeners. Factsheets and tours will be available to visitors.

    After test results and data analysis are completed, a formal report will be sent to Onondaga County Agriculture Council and the Soil and Water Conservation District to add to their newsletter, in addition to the NY Morning Ag Clips. A workshop will be scheduled for January 2018 highlighting the results of the project. The workshop will be advertised through community garden groups, morning ag clips, and Onondaga County Ag Council.

    Factsheets highlighting the results of the project will be distributed at the workshop and electronically shared with the Horticulture and Small Farms program at Cornell University, the Willow Program at SUNY ESF and through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will provide a feasibility study for improving soil health and crop productivity in poorly-performing urban soils using Stropharia mushrooms. Farmers will gain information about the possible benefits and economic feasibility of using woodchips with and without Stropharia mushrooms to improve soils and crop yields. Farmers will also learn about the commercial viability of two crops that can be readily grown but are rarely sold in Central New York. The market viability study will reduce risk to farmers interested in diversifying their operations with these new crops, either preventing loss from a poor crop choice or increasing income by adding a niche product with demonstrated demand. Because woodchips are an affordable and readily available Organic soil amendment, farmers will learn how to utilize a low-cost soil  amendment.

    Objective 1. Test efficacy of various woodchip substrates and Stropharia to improve marginal agricultural soils.

    Objective 2. Test impacts of Stropharia-inoculated and composted woodchips on yields of lemon cucumbers, cabbage and carrots.

    Objective 3. Test marketability of two novel crops: lemon cucumbers and Stropharia mushrooms. Objective 4. Measure economic viability of various soil amendments used to improve productivity of poorly performing soils.

    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.