Mushrooms & Drought
The mountains of Western North Carolina and the surrounding areas are experiencing a major drought. With Asheville being just an hour from a temperate rainforest, we are used to getting a pretty decent amount of rain here. Some fear that extreme drought conditions might kill mushroom mycelium in the forest. Fungi is extremely resilient though. Mycelial networks can reach deep into the soil profiles to access water. Fungal hyphae are able to survive in extremely dry conditions by hydraulically lifting water to the surface. Nature is awesome...because the more extreme the drought, the GREATER the hyphal biomass!
The mycorrhizal relationships that are present in the forest are dynamic and will continue through drought and even fire. Fire can actually be beneficial to an ecosystem. When the National Park Service and Forest Service performs controlled burns they are reducing the accumulation of dead wood, which can be a fuel source during times of drought. That same dead wood can also act as a sponge to protect the forest from too much damage during a wild fire though. Fire renews the ecosystem, and ensures biodiversity. There are even some species that need fire to survive. Some need the extreme heat to release their seeds, and some are looking for the nutrient influx that enhances soil fertility after a fire.
In the aftermath of a fire, those same "sponge" logs will be one of the first places that primary succession will occur. That water and nutrient reservoir will produce mushrooms, those mushrooms will draw in flies, and those flies will attract fly feeders like birds. The poop that birds drop will bring in new seeds and create pioneer species that will lead the charge in rehabilitating the forest ecosystem.
When spring comes and a new foraging season begins, look in the areas that have had fire damage this fall. There are many mushroom species that will thrive in this environment. As for foraging right now, mushrooms are obviously very scarce at the moment, so when you do find them, harvest lightly. You want to allow some of them to remain so they can spread their spores and create more mushrooms next year.
Most of the places that you will find mushrooms right now are going to be near streams, lakes, or low lying areas that hold moisture. But just remember...to harvest sustainably!
For those of you that are outdoor cultivators, we have a few tips that might help:
- Submerge logs in water for 24 hours.
- After being taken out of soak, keep an eye on them. The mushrooms will dry out quickly and abort.
- If you notice them starting to dry out, we suggest watering them with a sprinkler for 30 mins or so every day during fruiting.
- Allow your logs to rest for a few weeks before you try and force fruit again.
- Water with a sprinkler once a week for 15 mins (this is not to force fruit, just to provide some water for the mycelium)
Wood Chips (i.e. Stropharia, Parasol)
- If you are growing mushrooms in wood chips you will need to water them every 2 weeks for 12 hours.
- You can check on the mycelium by using your hand to gently pull back a handful or two of the wood chips. You should be able to see the white mycelium underneath. Remember to spread the mulch back after.