Edible Mushroom Cultivation
Since the summer of 2009, research students in Ithaca College's Environmental Science department have been attempting both indoor and outdoor mushroom cultivation, slowly working out the kinks of mushroom farming each year.
Why Cultivate Mushrooms?
Besides being one the most beneficial NTFP, there are many more reasons for cultivating mushrooms:
- Mushrooms can be used in biology labs for studying their intriguing lifecycles and important ecological roles in the environment.
- Mushroom "roots", also known as mycelium, can grow into interconnected underground webs weighing up to 2,000 tons which help prevent soil erosion, and also transport nutrients throughout the forest floor.
- About 3,000 of the 14,000 known mushroom species are edible and delicious.
- Approximately 700 mushroom species are known to have medicinal properties.
Current Indoor Facility
The main goal of the indoor facility is to mimic ideal outdoor conditions allowing year-round mushroom cultivation. In order to maintain these conditions we have added the following provisions to the indoor farm:
- 4 humidifiers to maintain a humidity level of 80 - 90%.
- A small room constructed of PVC piping and Tyvek plastic sealant which will keep the area bacteria, mold and bug free.
- A new ventilation system within the building to continuously refresh the air.
- Consistent sterilization of the floors, walls, and mushroom racks to further protect the area from unwanted organisms.
- Hooks from which plastic bags filled with a substrate and large amounts of spawn will hang allowing mushrooms to grow on a vertical surface.
Current Outdoor Facility
The outdoor farm has seen little change over the past two years and still contains the following
- Hardwood logs 24 - 36" long, 6 - 8" in diameter which have had 2" deep holes drilled into them, filled with spawn plugs, and sealed with hot wax. Post innoculation, these logs are stacked in "log-cabin" form and left to fruit.
- Other substrates, such as straw, sawdust and compost, left on the moist ground and covered with spawn.
- Like the logs, these substrates are also known to supply mushrooms with the nutrients needed to grow, however they do not require the use of timber.
Mushrooms being cultivated:
Someday in the future, we would hope to see this research project blossom into a self-sustaining small mushroom producing business. With successful annual production this business will hopefully turn a profit for further improvements and also offer healthy and delicious mushrooms to students and residents of Ithaca. As the business grows, we hope to further educate ourselves and the local community about the benefits of mushrooms and the importance of non-timber forest products.
Mushrooms, Syrup, and Honey…oh my!
What’s the buzz? Well, it must be those new worker bees of Jason Hamilton’s Non-Timber Forest Products class…either that or the actual honey bees that the class has bought for one of their products: honey. The class of twenty first began cultivating the extraordinary tastes and health benefits of oyster and shiitake mushrooms in early February. Through the outside reading of Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running and Ithaca College’s very own Mushroom Cultivation Guide Book, students became aware of the incredible powers of mushrooms and how they can (as Stamets puts it) help save the world!