Mushroom Growing Sustainability
Mushrooms Have Remarkably Low Environmental Footprint
The mighty mushroom is healthy on the plate, AND gentle on the planet -- according to a study measuring the water, energy and carbon emissions required to grow and harvest fresh mushrooms in the United States.
The study finds production of a pound of mushrooms requires only 1.8 gallons of water and 1.0 kilowatt hours of energy, and generates only .7 pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions. In addition, the annual average yield of mushrooms is 7.1 pounds per square foot -- meaning up to 1 million pounds of mushrooms can be produced on just one acre annually.
Mushroom growing and the environment
Our growers, and mushroom growers around the world, have made tremendous strides to conserve resources and eliminate pollution. It may come by big surprise to many people that mushrooms farms recycle, A LOT!
Our biggest recycling opportunity is through composting; we happily utilize other industries’ waste products to create our mushroom growing substrate (compost).
Hay is the foundation of mushroom compost. We purchase second grade hay from farmers with less than perfect crops or from farmers who planted a marginal crop so their land doesn’t sit idle. In addition to the hay, we also rely heavily on the discarded bedding from horse racing tracks and boarding stables. Believe it or not, there isn’t enough horse bedding to go around; mushroom farmers have to secure contracts with equine facilities to ensure a year-round supply of the material.
Another waste product we make use of is poultry manure for it’s great nitrogen properties. This helps solve a difficult problem for the poultry industry.
We purposely pave our compost wharfs with a slope to direct water runoff to catch basins, lagoons and holding tanks so we can recycle it by pumping the water back onto the piles.
Post mushroom substrate (spent compost)
What many farmers call spent compost, we call post mushroom substrate because it’s really not spent at all and has many uses off the mushroom farm.
Gardeners, landscapers, and farmers -- who know the value of post mushroom substrate -- use it readily. Sometimes further decomposing of the substrate or adding additional ingredients is necessary to dilute the strongest nutrients and better balance the compost to best benefit other agricultural crops. Many people wonder why we can’t reuse the mushroom compost a second time. It’s not economically feasible because the prior mushroom crop used most of the cellulose, lignin and other carbohydrates that are essential to growing edible fungi (mushrooms).
So, some wonder if this post mushroom substrate is harmful to the environment; and the answer is simple: no. When spread on the ground it does not pose a pollution or ground water quality problem. Since compost is about 75 percent organic matter, it easily decomposes and takes on a soil-like characteristic. Our individual farms have unique water and air quality monitoring programs depending on the surrounding environment. Our farm in the Monterey Bay, for example, does quarterly water tests and visual inspections of the streams that run downstream from our growing areas.
We hope that our communities, municipal governments and customers will learn about the benefits a mushroom farm brings to the environment by recycling other industries’ waste as well as our own. The more we learn about where our food comes from, the more we will understand the environmentally friendly practices that are an innate part of agricultural businesses.