Adapting Chinese Morel Cultivation Strategies for Farmers in the Northeast

Project Overview

LNE19-389R
Project Type: Research Only
Funds awarded in 2019: $140,581.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2022
Grant Recipient: The Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
John Pecchia
Pennsylvania State University

Commodities

  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms

Practices

  • Crop Production: outdoor mushroom cultivation
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, workshop
  • Production Systems: mushroom production

    Proposal abstract:

    Morel mushrooms, Morchella spp., are highly sought after and are collected from the wild in the spring in regions throughout the US. Though there have been reports and patents on how to cultivate them in the US, the results have always proven disappointing with inconsistent and poor production yields. The failed attempts to cultivate morels in the US along with high consumer demand leads to a very limited supply of fresh morels. Fresh morels are only available by collecting wild mushrooms and can be purchased in the spring with prices reaching as high as $40 per pound. Recent research and farming activities in China have demonstrated a breakthrough in artificial morel cultivation. Chinese mushroom farmers are beginning to adapt a new methodology to grow morels outdoors with yields being consistent enough to allow producers to start making a profit on morel farming. The science behind morel cultivation is still in its infancy; however, the basic production techniques allow farmers to grow morels on a much more consistent basis then previously reported. Two key components that we think are necessary for the successful production of morels that have led to the recent expansion in Chinese morel farming are the selection of the morel species and the use of a nutrient supplement bag. It is believed that some morel species are mycorrhizal and require a symbiotic relationship with plant species to produce mushroom fruit bodies. This was the underlying belief in many of the previous production patents that have failed. However, it is now believed that some species may either be both mycorrhizal and saprophytic or that they may only be saprophytic allowing for easier growth in culture and fruiting in an managed production system. We propose to adopt the new Chinese production practices and do cropping trials in Pennsylvania and Maine to see how the northeast US weather and soils affects morel production. Penn State University has a large number of morel cultures in its culture collection (http://plantpath.psu.edu/facilities/mushroom/cultures-spawn/CultureList.pdf) which will allow us to do some preliminary tests to determine the best species to use for artificial cultivation. Once the best species are determined they will be tested in the field plots (along with indoor cultivation experimentation) to determine how the different species produce in the northeast climate. Though there is a patent filed in China on the process, the production practices described in the patent are very general and we foresee several production modifications (variability in nutrient supplementation as well as soil preparation) that would take place in the US that would therefore not require the purchase of patent rights to grow morels, if the patents are even applicable in the US.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    1: Determine the best Morchella species to use for mushroom cultivation in northeastern United States.

    2: Test effects of different soil organic matter amendments on morel cultivation.

    3: Monitor the effects of soil environmental parameters as well as environmental conditions on morel fruiting.

    4: Test effects of soil physical and chemical properties on morel fruiting in climate controlled indoor cultivation system.

    5: Disseminate morel cultivation information to farmers throughout northeastern U.S.

    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.