Friday, October 19, 2018

Totally Shiitake Workshop: Trends and Techniques to Growing Shiitake

by Lindsey Bender


Shiitake mushrooms growing on logs.

Shiitake mushrooms are the best selling specialty mushroom in the world. They are known for their garlicky flavor, ease of growing, productivity, and reliable fruiting. For those that already grow shiitake, there are a multitude of strains and techniques to expand and improve your growing experience.  For those that are new to mushroom growing, there are many options to get started. At Field and Forest Products, we offer a wide variety of workshops annually to provide hands on instruction and training for anyone interested in growing mushrooms. On November 10th, we will be hosting an event appropriate to both aspiring and seasoned shiitake growers. This all day event will be easy going and casual, yet instructive and inspiring. Shiitake can be grown in a variety of ways depending on the interest of the grower, their needs, resources, timeline, and other variables. Stay tuned for an exclusive on the new shiitake “high-speed method”!


Specialized tools can be used to speed up the inoculation process. Pictured here are our Okuda Hand Inoculators. 

Growing shiitake on logs is the industry standard. This method provides a long term perennial option to growing high quality, delectable shiitake in a very passive way. Often times, shiitake logs can produce mushrooms for up to 8 years from a single planting! This workshop will cover everything you need to know to select quality logs to grow quality mushrooms. Participants will have the opportunity to be hands-on and use a variety of innovative tools to drill and fill their own log to take home. For the more experienced growers, this is the opportunity to try inoculation tools that will transform and simplify your inoculation process. After inoculating logs, we will tour the Field and Forest Products laying yard – a true sight to behold! Over 5,000 shiitake logs lay under the forest canopy in various stages and stacking configurations. There are a variety of options for log maintenance, management, and fruiting strategies to improve your growing and maximize log potential.    



No shiitake log grower can ignore the opportunity to fill the niche of gaps in production with shiitake sawdust blocks, so we also teach you where, when and how to use these synthetic “logs” to keep production as seamless as possible. Simply open the blocks, place them in a growing area, and be ready to harvest shiitake in 7-10 days!  We will tour the Field and Forest fruiting room that sustains our mushroom production throughout the year – but most especially during the winter months in northern Wisconsin when the shiitake logs are lying dormant outside blanketed in snow.


Shiitake ready to fruit blocks can be incorporated to provide continued production during cold months. 

Speaking of the north, the snow, and the coming winter…


Shiitake log growing can require patience.  Although it’s well worth the wait, logs often times don’t begin fruiting until the following year after planting. Northern growers in colder climes are also typically restricted to just the spring season to plant their logs. There is a solution! We are now introducing the “High Speed Method” for shiitake cultivation on logs. This method, developed by the industry leaders in Japan, allows growers to commence fruiting shiitake logs in as soon as 5 months after planting!  This new incubation technique also enables even northern growers to harvest wood in the fall and plant shiitake logs that will be ready for fruiting in the spring. The technique is simple but innovative – designed to continuously stimulate shiitake metabolism and growth within the log at the cellular level.


These logs were inoculated at an increased rate and incubated indoors, resulting in a rapid spawn run time. 

Growing shiitake can be as simple and passive or as intense as you want. Likewise, it can be a profitable opportunity.  Please join us on November 10th to learn what you need to know to become a part of the wonderful mushroom growing community. Each participant will take home a shiitake log, a ready to fruit sawdust block, as well as the knowledge needed to begin this fun, simple, and rewarding hobby. The workshop will be held from 9am-5pm at the Field and Forest Products location in Peshtigo, WI.  We will provide coffee, tea, water and bakery in the morning and a mushroom infused meal for lunch. Class limit: 25. Registration required by November 7th, no cancellation refund after November 8th, 2018.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Grow Oyster Mushrooms with a TeePee Kit

by Laura Kahles


Oyster mushrooms growing from a roll of toilet paper.

The thought of growing mushrooms may seem too daunting for those just starting out. Maybe your green thumb easily withers away a few short weeks after purchasing your spring transplants. If you can’t grow plants how could you possibly keep mushrooms alive, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that mushroom growing can be easy, and more importantly ANYONE can do it. 

We have a few options for indoor grow kits, but I’m going to focus on one that allows you to do the planting yourself, our Oyster TeePee Kit. TeePee translates into TP, which stands for toilet paper. Weird…I know, but why not grow mushrooms on something that is easily accessible and a part of every home. Toilet paper, although not very rich in nutrients, can support the growth of an incredible mushroom…the oyster. This mushroom can grow on a wide variety of substrates like paper, cardboard, coffee grounds, straw, sawdust, and logs (just to name a few). It is mild in flavor and versatile to cook with. 


Rolls getting ready for inoculation. 

Kits come in a variety of size options, enough to plant 7, 15, or 21 rolls of toilet paper. And just so we are clear, these are not the toilet paper tubes alone, but rather the full roll of toilet paper. Each kit contains grain spawn (mushroom seed), filter patch bags, rubber bands, instructions and a recipe card. All you need to provide is a large pot for boiling water, tongs, and a spray bottle.



Let me explain the basics:

Toilet paper should be dipped into boiling water to hydrate.

First, heat a large pot of water to boil. Using a tongs, grip a toilet paper roll, and push it down under the hot water for about 3-5 seconds. Pull the roll out of the water and place on a clean surface to cool. Repeat with all toilet paper rolls. Once cool to the touch, place one roll in every included filter patch bag. Roll the bag down and pour the grain spawn into the center tube of the TP roll. It’s okay if some of the grain falls outside of the tube. Now, rubber band each bag closed (above the filter patch) and store in an undisturbed area between about 65-75 degrees. Closets, kitchen cabinets, or the top of the refrigerator work well for storage.   

Within 3-4 weeks you should notice that each roll is covered in a fluffy white mycelium (mycelium is like mushrooms roots), and this means it’s fully colonized and capable of producing mushrooms. The rolls should be put in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours. This will help to stimulate fruiting. If you wish to stagger the fruiting, rolls can be left in the refrigerator longer. Take the rolls out, remove the rubber bands, and pull open the bag to allow fresh air inside. Mist daily with a spray bottle and wait. Within two weeks you should be harvesting delicious mushrooms. Keep up the misting and the kit can last several months, producing mushrooms every few weeks. 

Watch our YouTube video outlining the steps above.

Toilet paper rolls are capable of producing several times if misted on a regular basis. 

This kit is interactive, and can be a fun learning experience. Often times they are used in the classroom for teaching the basics of fungi, and are periodically used for science fair projects. However, any person young or old can enjoy the wonders of this kit. If you are looking for something unusual to bring to deer camp this year, I guarantee this kit will fit the bill. They can make for interesting birthday and Christmas gifts too! Follow this link to buy one of these unique kits.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Home-Grown Hen of the Woods (aka Maitake mushroom)

by Mary Ellen Kozak

Hen of the Woods, prime for the picking.

Hen of the Woods mushrooms are members of the "superior" class of wild edible mushrooms. Crunchy even when cooked, rich in flavor, autumnal in color, they are a beloved mushroom to people who know them. Cultivated hens are referred to as "Maitake" (pronounced my-tahk-ee), but they are very tricky to grow indoors consistently. If you are lucky to find them in the wild, you will find them growing in late summer and early fall, often at the base of isolated oak stumps or growing out of radiating buried roots. You can revisit that stump, often for years, and find a hens roosting there every fall. It will likely take many acres of searching to find a hen, but when you do, it can be a prime photographic moment before harvest and hitting the pan!


Hen of the Woods really can look like a hen taking a sand bath and often blends into the landscape. No plucking is a perk!

Fortunately, if you have access to oak logs, you can grow them outdoors yourself. Inoculated logs will fruit for years every fall, but usually need 16-18 months after inoculation for fruiting to commence.

Maitake is a weak competitor. Like growing Shiitake or Oyster mushrooms on wood logs, you will inoculate the logs with spawn, but we highly recommended that you pre-treat the log first, then bury the log outdoors and let the fall weather bring on the fruiting. A prep/planting schedule looks like this:

Late fall through early spring → cut oak logs  
March through April → pre-treat logs and inoculate 
Through June → incubate logs indoors
By end of June → bury logs outdoors 
Fall, up to 18 months after burial → fruiting
Harvest a cluster every fall for approx a year per diameter inch of the log.

What is "pre-treatment"?
Wood logs come with their own protective bark sleeve which is sufficient to hold in moisture and prevent invasion of other fungi, allowing for fast colonization of whichever spawn you plant into the log. With Maitake, however, spawn run is unreliable but we can help it along by pre-treating the log in one of three ways: sterilizing it in a pressure cooker, boiling it for 1 hour or steaming it for 6 hours.

Which method is best?
Pressure cooking gives us the highest rate of colonization, but it requires a big enough cooker to hold a 2 lb. log, which we believe is the minimum size for good sized clusters and long term fruiting. Your pressure canner should be a minimum size of 12 qts, and you can process a bigger log if you have a 23 qt size canner.

This 12 qt canner comfortably fits a 2 lb. plus log.

Not comfortable with (or don't have) a pressure canner? The next best choice would be to steam or boil the log prior to inoculation. These each can result in a higher contamination rate in the finished log, but if carefully done and inoculated in a quiet, clean area of your house, can be very successful. You will need a large stock pot for either method. Boiling is a little more uncomfortable to work with, as the log must be boiled for one hour and taken out of hot water when time is up. Steaming (just as you would vegetables, rack on the bottom, a few inches of water and lid on) takes 6 hours, but the log can cool in the clean pot awaiting inoculation. We recommend using large autoclavable bags that will hold up to the heat with all three methods, but these are essential for the pressure cook method. If you have a large cooker you can pre-treat lots of logs, just like we did in the new FFP sterilizer (see below)!

Full instructions come with our Maitake spawn, or call us for a PDF of the instruction sheet.




Planting:
After a few months incubation, locate a burial spot for your log in a well drained area with partial to full shade. Dig a hole the size of the log and place the log in the hole (you can bury the log vertically or horizontally). Cover the top of the log with a dusting to 1/2 inch of soil. It's also a good idea to mulch the area with a thin layer of wood chips or straw to keep developing mushrooms free from splashing soil as they develop in the fall.


This incubated log is ready for burial!

Make sure to stake or flag where your log is buried. Ours have been lost under the hostas! 


Coexist
Try to install the logs where you have not seen a known competitor, such as Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria sp.) Because it is uncertain how much this fungus will rob nutrients from the Maitake log, it's best to try to encourage complete spawn run of the Maitake prior to planting it in soil. Maitake is definitely the better tasting mushroom!

This log was buried during the 2017 growing season and fruited September 2018. This log will continue to fruit  every fall for at least 5 more years.


If you don't have a shady spot in your yard, you can install your logs in a plastic milk crate filled with soil. Keep the crate tended through the summer by not letting it dry out. Crated logs tend to fruit a little earlier, but may have a shorter life, probably due to the tendency to keep the logs small enough to fit into a crate. 


You can bury the logs in a plastic tub filled with soil (line it with several layers of newsprint first) if you don't have a yard.


We dug this log up when it started to fruit just to look the point of attachment. Yep! looks like roosting tree poultry!

This log finally bore a tiny Maitake when inoculated with the standard totem method without any pre-treatment at all. This log is at least 8 years in the ground and is the only one of a dozen inoculated (without pre-treatment) that actually fruited. 



Growing Maitake this way may seem putzy, but it is the most sure fire and economical way to get Maitake, unless you are lucky enough to know where your wild Maitake trees/stumps are hiding. If you are "stumped" for good Maitake recipes, use them where you can showcase their crunch and distinctive flavor. Roasting on a sheet pan, they can be used in every way possible. This Roasted Potato and Maitake Salad is a recipe that makes the most of this special mushroom.




Roasted Potato and Maitake Salad

6 T olive oil
2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (6 medium) cut into 3/4-inch wedges
Salt and pepper
3/4 lb Maitake, rinsed and blotted dry just before using, ripped into 1/2 inch fronds
1/2 c marscapone cheese (or blend 8 oz softened cream cheese with 1/4 c heavy cream)
1/4 c orange juice
1` 1/2 tsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/3 c thinly sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 450° F

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 T of the oil. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, 2 T of the oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper. Spread coated potatoes onto the baking sheet and roast about 20 minutes until just tender, flipping potatoes halfway through the cooking time.

Toss mushrooms, 1 T oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl. Scatter mushrooms over top of cooked potatoes and roast 10-15 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, whisk marscapone, orange juice, vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper in a bowl and drizzle in 2 T oil while whisking.

Flip the potatoes and mushrooms into a serving dish and spoon dressing over all. Toss to coat and garnish with scallions.

Serves 6-8

Recipe modified with compliments from Janice Thomas at the fabulous Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay, WI











Friday, June 8, 2018

The ABC's of Almond Agaricus: A Warm Weather Mushroom, Superlative in Any Garden


 by Mary Ellen Kozak


Almond Agaricus (Almonds) are sweet, fragrant summer mushrooms that can be grown outdoors in the garden. A cousin to the white button mushroom, crimini and portabella, it is much easier to grow. Just like button mushrooms, it grows in compost, but does not require pasteurization, caves or grow houses. Anyone who has a garden... flower, vegetable, shade, or container, can grow this mushroom. You don't necessarily need to plant them with vegetables or flowers, but plants help create necessary shade and harness humidity for perfect mushroom development when they are planted side by side. Grown together, there is also the mutual benefit from the CO2/O2 gas generated and exchanged by both plant and fungus, and the plants appreciate the released nutrients from the compost.

Almonds can be cultivated commercially (and in larger scale) in beds within high tunnels and greenhouses or in areas outdoors where moisture can be added and monitored. It can grow in the shaded woods and sunny garden (best alongside big, leafy plants because of the added shade). Or, it can be grown "small scale" in window boxes and large potted plants, indoors or out. It can be planted May until early July in the north, earlier in the south, or whenever the last frost date is in your area. It is best to plant them so you can get at least 2-4 months of frost-free weather. Almond mycelium can actually survive some freezing weather, but developing baby mushrooms will not, so it's best to pack in as much growing season as possible.

Almonds can be grown in abundance during the warm months of summer.

Almond Cultivation in 6 Steps:

1. Gather supplies
2. Find a site for the bed
3. Build the bed
4. Inoculate
5. Mulch and maintain
6. Harvest and enjoy!


1. Supplies: 

Spawn, compost (bagged or homemade), and a watering can or hose with spray nozzle. You will also want a mulch material to help maintain adequate moisture throughout the growing medium profile. For spawn rates, see Step 4 below.


2. Site preparation and shade requirements:

Choose a location for your Almond bed. The shade requirement for Almonds are related to the ability to keep the bed moist during spawn run, and humidity to encourage large and succulent mushrooms when they fruit.  This can be done outdoors in a fully sunny garden if you can provide lots of mulch and frequent, light watering from a sprinkler or soaker hose over the Almond bed for its spawn run phase, and big leafy plants nearby to capture humidity for its fruiting stage. Chard, lettuces, zucchini, tomatoes and other large leafed vegetables are all suitable companions for Almonds. 

These Almonds are growing in a bed of leeks that are planted in a shallow trench of compost, mulched with straw. Leeks, while loving the compost, do not provide enough shade for premium yields. Tomatoes and zucchini are a better choice.

We have taken to growing all our tomatoes in a high tunnel, and it turns out to be a really good location for Almond production as well. We live north of the 45 degree parallel, so the extra heat and extended season provided by the greenhouse plus the daily attention to plants and soil alike make for a great spot to grow Almonds. We also plant beds constructed in the garden or forest, but yields are frequently lower because the bed is more likely to dry out due to our own negligence. 


3. Choose your compost and construct bed:

Almonds fungally fall at the bottom in the rot chain. While mushrooms like Shiitake and Oyster must have undecomposed lignin and cellulose found in just-cut trees and other woody substrates, Almonds like rich, decomposed plant matter, further down the decay chain. As mushroom growers, we use both spent and composted Shiitake (sawdust) blocks and myceliated, composted Oyster mushroom straw; a dual "waste" substrate. It's pretty cool that you can grow two different mushrooms from the same substrate, just utilizing the food from different levels of decay. You can also use kitchen/garden waste compost, bagged composts and worm castings. We are still working with leaf-based mulch/compost but cannot yet recommend it.

If you are using bulk or homemade compost, take the time to make sure the compost is moist enough, which is typically the biggest problem with using homemade compost. Use the "squeeze test": grab a handful and squeeze as hard as you can. One or two drops of water should want to drip away. The compost does not have to be perfectly crumbly and finished, but you should aim for it to get this way.

Composted straw, kitchen and garden refuse 

Bed construction: We have tested several bed depths and spawn rates and have determined that beds 5 inches deep inoculated at a 5% rate (5 lbs. of spawn to 100 lbs. of compost) is optimal. Make attention to bed depth your priority. Deeper beds (but not too deep for the companion plants) are easier to maintain moisture, and shallower beds are prone to excessive drying requiring more constant watering.

* Note - Choose the right companion plant: It's important to remember that compost is also considered a fertilizer and that too much might not be a good thing for some plants you may be considering to pair with your mushroom growing. Some of the nutrients are being used by the mushroom mycelium, so we honestly have never had too much leafy growth from our tomatoes even when planted into an extra thick compost bed. However, we are a little more reluctant to pair with plants like peppers which have a finicky reputation in regard to an overly rich soil.


4. Inoculation:

After the bed is laid out (if polyculturing, we plant our transplants first and build the bed around them), it's time to inoculate. Spawn rates: You will need about 10 lbs. compost per sq. ft. of bed space that is 5 inches deep seeded (inoculated) at a rate of 1/2 lb. spawn per sq. ft. A standard garden bed 3 ft. wide and 10 ft. long requires about 15 lbs. of Almond spawn. Open the spawn bag and break off egg-sized pieces of spawn and bury on 6-8 inch centers apart in a grid pattern, making sure spawn is covered with some compost after inoculation (take a moment to enjoy the 
signature almond-ish fragrance of the Almond spawn). Placing the spawn at different depths is also a helpful strategy.


This simple polyhouse is constructed from an "instant garage" frame and greenhouse plastic. The bed to the left has been planted and mulched with straw, the center bed is being inoculated, and the bed to the right awaits planting.

5. Mulching and spawn run

Keeping the bed moist is perhaps the biggest challenge - you will want to keep it damp to the very top of the compost. We have used straw, paper grain sacks, shredded office paper and cardboard to try to hold in moisture without excessive watering. The best so solution so far is cardboard kept moist by a soaker hose laid on top. Daily light sprinkling underneath dry cardboard or paper is almost daily work but is also quite effective. Leafy shade from the plant canopy really helps, even when the plants are young. This year we will be installing a small irrigation system which should give us effective, automatic coverage.
If you can get your cardboard to stay wet, the spawn run underneath will be excellent.
When long strands of mycelium start to knot, fruiting is at hand.

Paper seed bags weighed down with a straw mulch are pulled back to show myceliated compost two weeks after inoculation. Growth is not as strong at the very top as it is when using cardboard, but we are happy with the results.
After 2-3 weeks, watch the beds closely. The mycelium will start to knot just prior to fruiting, indicating that mushrooms are on the way. Now is the time, as an option, to apply a casing layer (preferably just before this stage, as the compost starts to show 60 percent myceliation as shown in the photo above). A casing layer is just a nutrient poor, thin layer of a water holding material that helps increase yields. Adding this layer is OPTIONAL. You will get plenty of mushrooms without it and it is an extra step. To get the most out of your planting though, application of this layer is helpful for maintaining bed moisture and reducing the need for constant watering. We make our casing out of peat moss and adjust the pH with a little hydrated lime (found at garden centers). We often skip the casing stage because fruiting happens faster than we expected and once fruiting occurs, we feel we have missed the window of opportunity, and we are happy with the yields even without it!

Casing recipe:
 3 lb. peat moss
 3 qt. water 
 1 1/2 T hydrated lime (look for types with less than 1% Mg (Magnesium) like Hi-Yield)
Mix well.

The mixture is spread out over the top of the bed, about 1/2" deep. Cover with mulch again and wait for the spawn to grow up through the extra layer, usually 7-10 additional days. Once the mycelium, showing at the top of the bed, starts to move from a feathery look to little tiny knots, you will know that you are just days from a mushroom harvest. Keep things moist!
Make sure the casing substrate is good and wet. Grab a handful and squeeze hard and look for  about 10 drips. It should be wetter than the compost!
Whoops! This bed, mulched with shredded office paper, got past us before we could case it! 

After initial knotting, real pins will start to develop which happens withing days.
Even if you are not a mushroom nerd, it is exciting!


6. Harvest:
New flushes will continue every 2-3 weeks. The first flush will produce single, large mushrooms, with later flushes producing smaller mushrooms, but many of them.
First fruitings produce a few but kingly mushrooms
Later fruitings yield mushrooms in abundance














As the mycelium sets pins, you will be able to judge how large the mushrooms will be. We let the large pins develop into a more open mushroom, like a portabella, for stuffing or grilling use. Smaller pins are harvested closer to buttons as they store longer and transport easily.


Harvesting when the mushrooms are button or cup shape makes for a good quality market mushroom.

From this point, keep the bed reasonably moist until freeze up. Expect mushrooms every few weeks after a good rain or heavy sprinkling from your garden hose.

Keeping a good thing going:
Now that you have used all your finished compost up for the growing season, it is time to start building a new pile. Make sure to add all your trimings or old mushrooms from the Almonds as they will have important bacteria that enhance fruiting attached to the bits of soil from the "rootlets."


Mushroom roots and pieces should go in the compost pile for next years' Almond planting.

Container plantings:

Almonds can grow very well in window boxes or large plant pots filled with basic potting soil mixes, but be mindful of the exposure where the pot will rest and the plant variety. North side exposures are best because the risk of drying out is low. Simply break off tangerine sized pieces of spawn and bury it in the top half of of the container. Use a 7-10 percent inoculation rate: #3/4-1 lb. of spawn for every 10 lbs. of potting soil and a couple scoops of garden soil to add to the bacterial mix. If you are using soil-less potting soil, add 1/3 by weight compost. No special watering is necessary as containers are often watered quite regularly. Shaded containers maintain moisture the best, of course.
A northern exposure on this window box brings nice surprises. Make sure you can open your window for the harvest!
                                                             
Medicinal benefits:

One can't talk about the Almond without mentioning its contribution to the family medicine chest. This mushroom has the more than its share of names: Agaricus blazei, Agaricus brazilienses, The Royal Sun mushroom, and Almond Portabella, although Agaricus subrufescens is the oldest and least controversial, so we'll stick with that. Nevertheless, we believe the fruits of all mushroom cultivation should also be part of the family "pleasure" chest.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Red Maple: Can this native new weed of the temperate forest make for good mushroom wood?

by Lindsey Bender

Red Maple mid-season
Red Maple is a very successful native tree that appears to be on the move, increasing its predominance across the Great Lakes states and Northeast. Also known as swamp, water or soft maple, it is tolerant to both very wet and very dry sites and everything in-between. Whether the reason for the invasive quality is from decreases in fire frequency, current forestry practices or climate change, there is a worry that Red Maple is replacing regeneration of high value oaks, chestnut and sugar maple. For the mushroom grower, red maple has some great qualities. Stumps sprout in profusion, often growing straight with multiple stems and is very plentiful. It serves as a substrate for Shiitake mushrooms, but its profitability to mushroom growers has been variable at best. At F&FP we have always believed that if we can make it grow a little it can be tweaked to make it grow better. In 2015 Field & Forest Products (FFP) and Misty Dawn Farms (MDF) teamed up on a two-year research project investigating the use of Red Maple for Shiitake mushroom production. 

The short answer is Red Maple is a useful mushroom wood species if you cut in spring during sap flow, use larger diameters (5” in diameter and coarse bark) and let it age 4 weeks prior to inoculation. For more information about the study, see below.

1) Does the month in which the logs are cut make a difference on log success?

Normally we say that logs should ideally be cut during the dormant season (from approximately 1/3 leaf color change in the fall, anytime through winter up until bud swell in the spring). Logs cut during this time typically hold onto their bark longer and are less prone to contamination by other competing fungi. To test whether this is the case with Red Maple, we inoculated over 20 logs every month in a one year period with the “Night Velvet” shiitake mushroom strain and incubated them indoors at 60-70° F with 85-90% relative humidity. Mushroom production was stimulated by force fruiting logs (soaking logs in cold water for 24hrs) after 11 months incubation time, and then mushroom yield was taken for each log. We found that March logs cut during sap flow produced the highest mushroom yields and were the most successful compared to logs cut in all other months of the year. Off all the logs that fruited, larger diameter logs with thicker, coarser bark were more successful than smaller logs with smooth bark.

You can cut Red Maple when the buds are anywhere between these two stages

2) Does the amount of time between cutting Red Maple logs and inoculating influence log success? 

Typically shiitake logs are cut then allowed to sit for a minimum of two weeks prior to inoculation. 
This time allows for cellular dieback in the log and subsequent dampening of the log’s defense system against fungal invasion. Shiitake is a saprophytic fungus that invades and consumes only dead organic matter. The weedy nature of Red Maple means these logs are more prone to re-sprouting (Figure 1). This livelihood means that the log is still capable of fighting against fungal colonization and really reduces mushroom log success. To test this, we inoculated logs either 2 weeks or 4 months after cutting. We found that many of our logs inoculated after only 2 weeks rest period struggled with successful spawn run. Logs that rested four months prior to inoculating were far more successful and productive. This indicates that more than two weeks resting before inoculation is necessary.

Figure 1. The central log has re-sprouted indicating the log is still alive and capable of fighting off shiitake invasion (shown by the lack of spawn run and mycelium on the end of the log).  

3) Is Red Maple a viable wood type for commercial shiitake production?

Many of the red maple logs inoculated only two weeks after felling were only moderately successful. Logs cut and inoculated four months later were far more productive yielding up to 2.3lbs shiitake/log. Unfortunately, disease presence was considerably higher in the Red Maple logs compared to other wood species used for shiitake cultivation (Red Oak, White Oak, Sugar Maple, Aspen) managed similarly.

Results from the red maple logs were compared to standard shiitake logs inoculated and managed under the same conditions. Average yields per log from other wood types during for the first fruiting year include Sugar Maple (0.68lbs/log), Red Oak (0.96lbs/log), White Oak (1.01lbs/log), Aspen (0.89lbs/log), and are comparable to Red Maple cut in December (0.80lbs/log) and Red Maple cut in February (1.02lbs/log) (Figure 2).   

Figure 2. Results from the ideal larger-sized red maple logs were compared to standard shiitake logs inoculated and managed under the same conditions. NOTE: These results are from the first year of fruiting only and do not necessarily represent the overall capability of each wood type over the life of the logs.  Red maple and similar softer hardwood species tend to have shorter fruiting lives than oak logs which remain the recommended log type for shiitake cultivation.  

Conclusion

By selecting for log parameters (coarse bark, >5.5”/14cm diameter), allowing sufficient rest time between felling and inoculation, and controlling for competing fungal disease, red maple logs are capable of producing yields comparable to other wood species commonly used in commercial cultivation of shiitake such as Sugar Maple and Oak species.

There are abundant advantages to being able to utilize Red Maple over standard wood species including cost per log ($2.00 versus $3.00, respectively), increased availability and abundance of Red Maple, increased speed of stand regeneration after wood harvest, faster spawn run in a softer harder, and public willingness to harvest weedy wood species.

Disadvantages – the weedy nature of Red Maple means these logs are more prone to re-sprouting (Figure 1). This livelihood means that the log is still capable of fighting against fungal colonization. To reduce these chances, we recommend letting the logs rest at least 4 weeks (optimal time still being determined) from cutting until inoculation. Secondly, because Red Maple is a softer hard wood, the average life of the log is shorter than hardwoods typically used for shiitake cultivation. Lastly, softer hardwoods like Red Maple are more prone to contamination by competing fungi. Altering log management to reduce these risks may be necessary.

We at Field and Forest Products are constantly striving to improve and clarify the standards for shiitake cultivation to improve success. To do so, we are working on a follow-up to this study examining timing of cut and optimal length of rest time to increase productivity comparing Sugar Maple and Red Maple. We also believe this data will be transferable to other invasive soft maple species such as Norway Maple (Acer platanoides). We will share those results with you in the future!

This two-year research project was funded by the North Central Region of Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program. You can read the full report here on their website: