My question is this, to what extent do you assist or direct the role of mycelium?
Do you attempt to pull a mushroom crop or leave the realm of the fungi fully in the hands of nature?
What are methods you use to promote a selected species of mushroom?
What are some situations where you take advantage of fungi's awesome powers of decomposition?
Most seem...shy...when it comes to working with this kingdom yet it seems, in my eyes at least, to hold enormous potential.
While I do not know much about it I have been following the work of paul stamets recently, author of the book Mycelium Running.
Check out this talk by Paul, it is about 18 min long and well worth it!
I'm glad you asked. Not because I am by any extent an expert, but this year I have taken a deliberate role in encouraging those fungal beasties to take hold anywhere that stays damp, and I'd love to hear what others are doing. I ordered about 5 sawdust/wood-chip spawn kits from fungi perfecti, mostly the strains that are known to be successful in gardens (their "Three Amigos" pback--Garden Stropharia, Inky Cap, Oysters). Being on a small residential lot, I had to import a couple of yards of alder sawdust (chips would have been better--but very hard to find!). I also used straw as substrate.
There is one very shady area on my lot that I have redirected gutter water to. I stirred in several wheelbarrow loads of sawdust/straw into the soil (tilled), then seeded patches of mycelium throughout. This is my "native garden" area, with local plants that hopefully will form symbiotic relationships with the fungi. I'm a bit concerned about the nitrogen-sapping effect of all that carbon-rich material. Other than the gutter water, they'll be "on there own" (which, of course, isn't true....I'm sure I'll hit them with the hose throughout the year )
I also created subterranean rows of sawdust/straw in my raised beds, and inoculated these also. They are drip irrigated and I hope to obtain a decent yield from this plot.
Having cultivated mushrooms from spores, I can tell you this: It's a heck of a lot of work! I'd like to find some species that naturalize and simply provide them with suitable growing medium, maybe some supplemental water, and just move some mycelium from an existing patch to spread them. Ideally, it would happen all with the maple and oak leaves that my lot receives each fall. If I have to import sawdust, so be it. I'd like to try a "semi-sterile" spawn propagation technique. Something like this: Pasteurize some straw/wood chips/compost, place into a big plastic tub, inoculate with spawn, allow to run through, spread spawn into garden. Not sure how well that would work, but next year I'm going to give it a whirl.
My "plant" ally is the humble Oyster mushroom, and I will probably end up producing mushrooms that cost around $100/lb, all things considered--but that's alright with me. Something about mushrooms really intrigues me...if you have the chance, try making a time-lapse shot of them! They're practically animals... http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/DeepGreen/NYTimes.html
I think incorporating fungi into permaculture designs is an excellent idea. If you'd like to read an excerpt from Paul Stamets on how fungi can play a role in permaculture check this out: http://www.fungi.com/mycotech/permaculture.html.
At our design course on Orcas we teach a session on mushroom and do hands on propagation (inoculating straw & logs).
I have watched youtube bits about Paul Stamets and read about him growing fungi to eat and to clean up soils and he talks of providing the fungi with wood, fresh cut branches, or wood chips, he says that mushrooms break down wood, or cardboard or the inside of corn on the cobs, their husks and coffee grounds as food for them, but he does not talk about addign fertiliser to the mix, he never says you should fertilise them so i can't think that the wood you put in to feed mushrooms will eat nitrogen.
I know that English field mushrooms grow on old cow pats and some other types of fungi or toad stools do similar things but Paul Stamets does not talk of mushrooms that feed on wood needing fertilizers.
I have read that the microbes that break down organic matter guzzle nitrogen.
I would like to know what Paul Stamets thinks about hugglekulture.
I did find a reference to burying logs as a way the germans had of helping to grow vegetables in some site i was reading, so this site was not the first time i had heard of it . It is easier to believe in things if you have read about them in several places.
A permaculture approach would probably yield less than intensive cultivation methods, but require much less labor. One appealing permie approach is the chainsaw oil that contains billions of spores of a particular edible species. The desired species is easily introduced en masse at the right time, and (gods permitting) it can compete well in a world filled with non-edible fungi and bacteria. So simply managing a woodlot can lead to a decent crop.
Strategic plantings using wooden dowels with mycelium is how Shiitake is cultivated in the Japanese woodlot method. Spraying a liquid culture on dead trees might work, if one had the equipment to brew up several gallons of inoculum at low cost.
For 6 weeks one summer our bees attacked a King Stropharia bed, exposing the mycelium to the air, and suckled the sugar-rich cytoplasm from the wounds. A continuous convoy of bees could be traced, from morning to evening, from our beehives to the mushroom patch, until the bed of King Stropharia literally collapsed. When a report of this phenomenon was published in Harrowsmith Magazine (Ingle, 198, bee keepers across North America wrote me to explain that they had been long mystified by bees' attraction to sawdust piles. Now it is clear the bees were seeking the underlying sweet mushroom mycelium.
Wow, that sounds like a much more sustainable way to supplement a hive than buying white sugar.
I wonder what Stropharia honey tastes like?