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Non Timber Forest Products 3- Mushroom Cultivation and fibers and crafts

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The next few articles will be finishing the non timber forest products series and this one focuses on a favorite topic of mine, mushroom cultivation! What a wonderful way to manage the forest to push the old growth feel and get a yield without extracting large trees. Also this article gets into the crafty part of what can be obtained from the forest.

Mushroom Harvest and Cultivation

Another facet of Non Timber Forest Products that is rapidly growing as the local foods scene emerges even stronger is mushroom cultivation. This goes beyond the harvest of the wild ones that naturally proliferate as unique culinary mushroom demand is growing quickly. This demand equals meeting the supply through a more intensive cultivation as to also protect our wild ones from over harvesting. Thus depending on your location and context, various species and their differing strains can be grown and allows one to turn problems into solutions. It’s a relatively easy pattern of implementation and takes skills of management but can provide a worthwhile return on a home or commercial-scale.

With that, as to recycle unwanted or overcrowded trees, a land manager can fell these trees and inoculate them with mushroom strains as to yield a harvest from this carbon resource. In my families land back in Kentucky, USA, the species I wish to thin is Red Maple (Acer rubrum). It grows so thick, like an “invasive”, that very little light reaches the forest floor making the herbaceous layer virtually obsolete. In healthy old growth forest one would aim for 50 trees per acre (4000 sq m). In our modern forest, which are recovering from years of over harvesting, grazing and farming, more like 200 trees per acre are found on sites. Thus this overabundance of carbon can be cycled on site to eventually build soil yet first obtain a food or medicine yield. Also very importantly it can be part of how we manage our woodlands and even accelerate succession towards an old growth feel of a forest. In fact this is what i am actually most into it for at my families land and the mushroom harvest comes secondary. Most commonly shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are being grown in these such cases of cycling hardwoods but there are others as well.

The Basic Process

The first steps are inherently focused around design and project management. You can use the following as a rough checklist with the total explanation below combined with the introduction above:

evaluate forest health through prolonged and thoughtful observation (PATO)
examine access and think about the flow of materials
decide which mushroom and its’ strain through locating an outlet for distribution of the “seed” and examining their catalogues
mark trees in the field and wait for appropriate time of year for cutting
create saw horse work stations and acquire all materials and equipment necessary
plan budget and labour needed
order spawn material for mushroom “seed” and refrigerate upon arrival
cut trees in the field into their appropriate lengths and stack wastes appropriately
move logs to a position for drilling, often at an outdoor electricity point or where a generator is brought into the field
drill logs with a high-powered drill to create the holes for “seeding”
put the “seed” into the holes appropriately depending on the type you go with
heat cheese wax and apply to each hole after seed is in to seal the holes
move logs to stacking yard and stack appropriately in dense shade and also where they won’t dry out quickly
Monitor for humidity and irrigate if need be
wait one year for the first sizable flush as you may get some after six months on softer hardwoods like maple
for timely flushes soak logs in a trough for 24 hours or bang with mallet
possibly re-stack so picking is easier than the conventional space-saving stack of the first year
Harvest and process for eating, drying, or sales
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