Mushroom for farm improvement

Yelena Kibasova

Mushrooms are known for growing on many things.

University environmental horticulture and computer science sophomore Ben Jordan has had an interest in mushrooms for a long time.

Last summer he began researching mushroom cultivation. Growing up in Delano, he saw farmers struggle with crop revenue.

Although few Minnesota farmers cultivate mushrooms for profit, Jordan said they are an easy-to-grow resource that can be used to help turn a profit.

While working on the student organic farm, he chose to concentrate on mushrooms. That work progressed into his current research project.

“I wanted to see if there was possibly another alternative (revenue) product,” Jordan said.

Mushrooms grow quickly and have a tendency to sprout easily on many substances, but cultivation is not widely seen in Minnesota.

“(It’s) something that can be done by farmers. Mushrooms can be a revenue source for a farmer who typically would be wasting and throwing away lots of products that now can be turned into a revenue source fairly easily,” Jordan said.

In his research, Jordan took agricultural byproducts and tested how they facilitated mushroom growth.

Byproducts such as wheat, oats, woodchips, manure and straw were used.

A basic trend was found that the more dense the product, the larger the growth, Jordan said.

Jordan used golden oyster mushrooms for the experiments.

“(They) are the easiest mushrooms to grow. They’ll eat anything,” Jordan said.

Mushroom spores were cultivated in a Petri dish and later added to the byproducts. The growth experiments were conducted in a cooler.

“You need to trick it into thinking it’s wintertime Ö getting it colder, getting it wetter Ö simulating the oncoming winter,” Jordan said. The fungus then begins to grow.

Jordan said he hopes his research will educate farmers to consider mushroom cultivation as a new revenue source.

“Based on all the other cultivation techniques and personal experience that I’ve had, I think this can be spread to plenty of other mushrooms,” Jordan said. “The methods that have been developed can be used to research other mushroom-producing fungi.”

Mushroom cultivation has a reputation for being too difficult. Though the process does require a substantial time commitment, Jordan said that once the process is started, mushrooms can be continuously cultivated with ease.

“It’s a high-value crop and it can be grown on materials that are easily available within Minnesota, said Bud Markhart, faculty adviser for Jordan’s research. “So it’s a great opportunity for someone who wants to diversify their agricultural operation or someone who just wants to start up a small business.”

David McLaughlin, curator of fungi at the Bell Museum of Natural History, said, “It just takes a little knowledge. I think you really have to know what you’re doing because you’ve got to worry about the economics Ö as well as the growing conditions.”

Jordan will present his finding from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 30 in Borlaug Hall.

He also said he hopes this research will bring about a mushroom cultivating course.