Optimizing management of manure composts to yield high value mushroom crops and soil amendments

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2008: $6,317.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Mark Jones
Sharondale Farm


  • Agronomic: wheat
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, intercropping, multiple cropping, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: display, farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Energy: energy use
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Pest Management: physical control, row covers (for pests), traps, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: earthworms, soil analysis, composting, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Growing edible gourmet mushrooms on animal manures is a way to optimize the efficiency of a small farm or market garden. In addition to a high value crop of mushrooms, good compost results. Nutrients in the partially consumed manure are made more readily available to plants and other soil organisms. Utilizing this partially decomposed manure from mushroom production will enhance soil fertility, but it is at the perfect stage for further biological refinement by digestion and passage through red compost worms. Worm castings, sometimes referred to as “black gold,” add humus and readily available nutrients to soil. Worms and worm castings are also salable products. Worms are sold for composting, fishing, and pet and poultry feed. Worm castings are also sold to home gardeners, greenhouse growers and farmers as a growing medium or soil amendment. As the trend toward eating local food grows in the US, the number of specialty mushroom farmers continues to decline. Capital expenditures and operating costs for indoor growing facilities are expensive and can be prohibitive for new farmers. So, a clear need emerges for less costly, lower input outdoor production methods adapted to regional conditions and local farm wastes by selection of productive mushroom species and strains. Mushroom production in most states is primarily of shiitake mushrooms on logs and oyster mushrooms on straw. With the growth of the local food movement, there is greater interest in eating a variety of gourmet mushrooms as reports of their nutritional and medicinal values enter the mainstream media. Although protocols exist for growing many of these species indoors in controlled environments, little research has been done to evaluate species and strains for outdoor cultivation in the U.S. Growing food and realizing high value products from serial and/or concurrent production of mushrooms and worms in manure waste seems an ideally integrated farm waste management strategy. For this study, locally available cattle and poultry manures will be composted for growing substrate. The Almond Portobello (Agaricus subrufescens) and the Royal Sun Agaricus (A. brasiliensis) are semi-tropical mushroom species resembling the brown Portobello (A. bisporus) with a delightful almond flavor. They command a high price and are reported to have high nutritional value and potent medicinal properties.

    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.