ogical ¡.wist ermaculture is a concept pioneered by Australian Bill Mollison and literally means "permanent agriculture." His model of biological diversity and complementary agricultural practices promotes a sustainable environment via the interplay of natural ecosystems. Permaculture has gained a huge international following after the publication of his book Permaculture: A Practical Gwde for a Sustainable Future. Permaculture has become the mainstay philosophy of the organic movement. Mollison's vision, which borrows from Masanobu Fukuoka's One Straw Revolution, intelligently combines the factors of site location, recycling of by-products from farming and forest activities, species diversity and biological succession.
When gourmet and medicinal mushrooms are involved as key organisms the recycling of agricultural and forest by-products, the bio-dynamics of permaculture soar to extraordinary levels of productivity. Net only are mushrooms a protein-rich food source for humans, but the by-products of mushroom cultivation unlock nutrients for other members of the ecological community. The rapid return of nutrients back into the ecosystem boosts the life cycles of plants, animals, insects (bees), and soil microflora.
What follows is a short list of the ways mush rooms can participate in permaculture. The numbers are keyed to the numbers in the accompanying illustration: The Stamets'an Model for Permaculture with a Mycological Twist.
1. Oyster Mushrooms: Oyster mushrooms can be grown indoors on pasteurized corn staiks, wheat, rice, and rye straw and a wide range of other materials including paper and pulp by-products- Soaking bulk substrates in cold water creates a residual "tea" that is a nutritious fertilizer and potent insecticide. Submerging the bulk substrate in hot water produces a different brew of "tea": a naturally potent herbicide. Oyster mushrooms can also be grown on haruwood stumps and logs. (Some varieties of Oyster mushrooms :ti the P. pulmonarius species complex naturally grow on conifer wood. )Pleurotusspp. thrive in complex compost piles, and are easy to grow outsiae with minimum care. The waste substrate from Oyster production is useful as fodder for cows, chickens, and pigs. Since half of the mass of dry straw is liberated as gaseous carbon dioxide, pumping this C02 from mushroom growing looms into greenhouses to enhance plant production makes good sense. (Cul ;vators filter the airstream from the mushroom growing rooms so spores are eliminated.) Furthermore, the waste straw can be mulched into garden soils, not only to provide structure and nutrition but also to reduce the populations of nematodes which are costly to gardeners and farmers.
2. King Stropharia: This mushroom ig an ideal player in the recycling of complex wood debris and garden wastes, and thrive in complex environments. Vigorously attacking wood (sawdust, chips, twigs, branches), the King Stropharia also grows in wood-free substrates, particularly soils supplemented with chopped straw I have seen this mushroom flourish in gardens devoid of wood debris, benefiting the growth of neighboring plants. Acclimated to northern latitudes this mushroom fruits when air temperatures range between 60-90c F. (1532° C.) which usually translates to ground temperatures of 55-65° F. (13-18° C.).
For 6 weeks one summer our bees attacked a ICing Stropharia bed, exposing the mycelium to
the ai: and suckling 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 Strnpharia literally collapsed. When a report of this phenomenon was published in Harmwsmith Magazine (Ingle, 1988), bee keepers across NorthAmf :ca wrote me to explain that they had been long mystiiied by bees' attraction to saw-dusi piles. Now it is clear the tees were seeking the underly:ig sweet mushroom mycelium.
King Stropharia is an excellent edible mushroom when young However, its edibility quickly declines as the mushrooms mature. Fly larvae proliferate ins;de the developing mushrooms. In raising silver salmon, I found that when I threw mature mushrooms into the fish holding tank, they would float. Fly lar/ae soon emerged from the mushrooms, struggling for air. Soon the fish were striking the large mushrooms to d;slodge the swollen larvae into the water where they were eagerly consumed. After several days of feec'ng mushrooms to the fish, the salmon would excitedly strike at the King Stropharia in anticipation of the succulent, squirming larvae as soon as the mushrooms hi* the water. Inadvertently, I had discovered that Kmg Stropharia is a good base medium for generating fish food
Growing King Stropharia can have other beneficial applications in permaculture. King Stropharia depends upon bacteria for growth. At our farm, which included a small herd of Black Angus cows, I established two King Stropharia beds at the heads of ravines which drained onto a saltwater beach where my neighbor commer i ally cultivates oysters and clams. Prior to installing these mushroom beds, fecal coliform bacteria seriously threatened the water qua ity. Once the mycelium fully permeated the sawdust/chip beds, downstream fecal bacteria was largely eliminated. The mycelium, in effect, became a i/.icro-filtration membrane. I had discovered that by properly locating mushroom beds, "gray water" run-off could be cleaned of bacteria and nitrogen-rich effluent. Overall water qua] "' y improved. Massive mushrooms formed. (See Figure 35.) After three to four years, chunks of wood are totally reduced into a rich, peat like soil, ideal for the garden. For nearly 8 years I have continued to install King Stropharia beds in depressions leading into sensit' e watersheds. Government agencies, typically slow to react to good ideas, have finally recognized the potential benefits of mycofiltration. Test plots are currently being implanted and monitored to more precisely determine the effects on water quality. If successful, I envision the widespread installation of King Stropharia beds into basins leading into
rivers, lakes, and bodies of saltwater.
3. Shiitake/Nameko/Lion's Manes: Outdoors, inoculated logs can be partially buried or lined up in fence-like rows. Once the logs have stopped producing, the softened wood can be broken up, sterilized, and re-inoculated. Indoors, these mushrooms can be grown on sterilized substrates or on logs using the meth -ods described in this book. Once the indoor substrates cease production, they can be recycled and re-inoculated with another mushroom, a process I callspecies sequencing. (See Chapter 22.) Later, the expired production blocks can be buried in sawdust or soil to to elicit bonus crops outdoors.
4. Maitake/Reishi/CIustered Wood-lovers: Several species can be incorporated into the management of a sustainable multi-stage, com plex Medicinal Mushroom Forest. Logs can be inoculated and buried or stumps can be impreg nated. The greatest opportunities for stump culture are regions of the world where hardwoods predominate. Presently, only a few gourmet and medicinal mushrooms grow on coniferous woods. Nevertheless, Enokitake (.Flammulina velutipes), Reish' (Ganoderma lucidwn), Clustered Woodlovers (Hypholoma capnoides), Chicken-of-the-Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus ), and Oyster (Pleurotus spp.) are good candidates for bcth conifer and hardwood stump decomposition.
5. Shaggy Manes: A cosmopolitan mushroom, Shaggy Manes (Coprinus comatus) grow in rich manured soils, d; sturbed habitats, in and around compost piles, and in grassy and gravelly areas Shaggy Manes are extremely adaptive and tend to wander. Shaggy Mane
patches behave much like King Stropharia and Morels, travelling great distances from their original site of inoculation in their search for fruiung niches
6- Morels: Morels grow in a variety of habitats, from abandoned apple orchards and diseased elms to gravelly roads and stream beds. However, the habitat that can be reproduced easily is the burn-site. (See page 401 for techniques on Morel cultivation.) Burn-sites, although increasingly restricted because of air pollution ordinances, are common among country homesteads. If a burn-site is not possible, there are alterna tes. The complex habitat of a garden compost pile also supports Morel growth. When planting cottonwood trees, you can ' ntroduce spawn around the root zones in hopes of creating a perennial Morel patch. Cultivators should note that Morels are fickle and elusive by nature compared to more predictable species like King Stropharia Oyster and Sh'itake mushrooms.
7. Mycorrhiza! Species: Mycorrhizal species can be introduced via several techniques The age-old, proven method of satellite planting is probably the simplest. By planting young seedlings around the bases of trees naturally producing Chanterelles, King 3oletes, Matsutake, Truffles or other desirable species, you may estab lish satellite colonies by replanting the young trees after several years of association. For those landowners who inher a monoculture woodlot of similarly aged trees, the permaculturally in clined steward could plant a succession of young trees so that, overtime, amulti canopied forest could be re-established
8. The Sacred Psilocybes: In the Pacific Northwest of North America, the Psilocybes figure as some of the most frequently found fungi in landscaping bark and wood chips. These mushrooms share a strong affinity towards human activities—from chopping wood, the planting of ornamentals, landscaping around buildings, to the creation of refuse piles. Many spiritually inclined cultivators view the establishment of Sacred Psilocybe Mushroom Patches as another step towards living in harmony within their ecosystem.
These are but a few of the mushroom species that can be incorporated into the permaculture model. Part of a larger community-based permaculture strategy should also include Mushroom Response Teams (MRT's) which could react quickly to catastrophic natural disasters—such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods—in the profitable recycling of the enormous debris fields they generate.
Clearly, the use of mushrooms raises permaculture to a level otherwise not attainable. I hope readers will develop such concepts further. When fungi are incorporated into these models, the ecological health of the whole planet will benefit enormously.
The potential for recycling organic wastes with fungi seems unlimited. Surprisingly, many mushrooms thrive on base materi ' als alien to their natural habitat Although Oyster mushrooms are j generally found in the wild on deciduous woods, they grow well on : many other materials besides hardwoods, including cereal straws, corn ; cobs, seed hulls, coffee wastes, sugar cane bagasse, paper and pulp | 1 by-products, and numerous other materials.
Success ;ncreases if the base material is modified to create an j optimal structure and moisture—and heat-treated—before inocu- j lation. The fact that many mushrooms can cross over to other j | non-native substrates gives the cultivator tremendous latitude in | designing habitats.
Materi als for composing a mushroom substrate are diverse and plen-j tiful. Because fungi decompose plant tissue, most homeowners can i use by-products generated from gardening, landscaping, tree prun- j ! ing and even building projects. Homeowners who collect and pile these debris have a perfect opportunity for growing a variety of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. If a mushroom of choice is not in troduced, a wild species from the natural environment will invade. The probability that one of these invading wild mushrooms would be a gourmet species is remote.
I prefer sawdust and wood debris as primary substrate components. Deciduous woods, especially those which decompose quickly, are the best. These fast-rotting woods, being less able to resist disease, accelerate the mushroom life cycle. Alder, cottonwood and poplar are favored over the more resistant, denser woods such as the oaks, maples, or ironwoods. Once the wood sawdust is gathered, additional materials are added to fortify the substrate. Three additional factors affect the suitability of a mushroom habitat: structural composition, pH and moisture.
The selection of the substrate components is more critical for growing gourmet mushrooms indoors than for growing outdoors. Commercial cultivators prefer the controlled conditions of indoor cultivation whereas most home cultivators are attracted to outdoor natural culture. Outdoor mushroom beds can be more complex, composed of crude mixtures of components, whereas for indoor cultivation, the uniformity and consistency of the substrate is essential.
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