In the last 5-10 years, the popularity of innovative approaches to mushroom cultivation for food, land restoration, agroforestry and other areas of new agriculture have increased, but it is still relatively unheard of in the UK. Much more research is needed in order to establish methods that will improve practice and build a strong body of evidence that would add value to UK mushroom cultivation.
We believe it is important to bring scientific rigour to grass-roots movements and provide good documentation of findings. We are hopeful that our research methodology can help inspire such a movement, which will take a varied approach to fungi cultivation and utilisation right on our doorstep.
We have initiated a number of ongoing projects and are keen to keep developing them. We believe they are vital for increasing our rural and urban food economies, and for improving and regenerating our environment. We are currently working with several organisations to progress radical mycology and test ideas. We hope our network will continue to grow and interconnect.
Better suited to our climate, we want to promote UK strains of mushrooms, this would result in lower energy consumption and reduce the cost for intensive indoor cultivation; in turn making small-scale cultivation more viable. We are also keen to promote their use in outdoor food projects, as well as for bioremediation and restoration work without impacting on local biodiversity protocols.
Alongside our amazingly talented friend Jesper Launder, we are developing methods for collection and cultivation of UK foraged mushrooms. In particular, we are investigating and promoting their medicinal properties.
Wild collection of tissues, spores or mycelium is a lengthy process; it requires meticulous lab processing to gain a viable and clean strain for further use. In addition strains need to be grown out on different materials
in order to see which methods produce the best fruits, before they can be trained to adapt to new materials and utilised for different purposes, such as food production or bioremediation.
We are currently developing
the following strains:
The Hebden Bridge Enokitake (Flammulina velutipe)
The Todmorden Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus)
The Lake District Cordeceps (Cordeceps militaris)
The Gorton Tiered Tooth Fungus (Hericium cirrhatum)
The Scottish Spring Cavalier (Melanoleuca cognata)
The Anglesy Morel (Morchella)
The Cheshire Reishi (Ganoderma resinaceum)
ORGANIC LAND CERTIFICATION
We are interested in assisting people to restore their lands vitality, whether that’s to gain organic certification for commercial purposes, ensure the healthy enjoyment of their family, or solely to increase biodiversity. We believe mushrooms and their mycelium can greatly accelerate the processes involved.
We have been trailing the use of mushrooms as companion plants in organic food production at our site, and with partner organisations. Mushrooms can be grown as secondary crops inhabiting the spaces between other food crops often utilising the shade of the crops canopy. They also have lots of other beneficial influences on plant and soil health including improving soil fertility by aiding in moisture management and breaking down hard materials such as rocks to release important minerals; they increase biodiversity, inviting bees and beneficial insects to plants; and can provide direct links to the plant root system where both plants and mushrooms benefit.
Rooting and Fruiting is currently seeking funding to put a research methodology in place on site and extend the research growing area, to focus on key mushrooms for companion planting. These will be:
King Stropharia with a range of crops
Nemeko with Blueberries
Elm Oyster with Brassicas
In addition we will also be looking at some trials of Spring Cavalier, Pine Tufts
and Parasol mushrooms.
The long term aim of this research work is to take the best methods of cultivation and work with organisations like Growing Well to establish robust mushroom-vegetable growing systems. We aim for a large-scale organic farm that uses perennial, indoor and outdoor annual plants on crop rotation, in order to establish whether mushroom cultivation could be a viable, even vital, to the UK food growing economy.
THE ONE ACRE
We are developing a small one acre woodland with a local family that incorporates Mycoforestry & Food Farming principles to enhance an established but unmanaged woodland. The end goal is to create a three tier design format for creating one acre woodland projects throughout Calderdale. The first is to create a range of viable mycofroestry and food farming techniques; the second is to marry this with the individual needs of woodland owners; and the third is to create community supported woodland management roles. This synergistic approach intends to create a system that is profitable whilst being sustainable and beneficial to forests and communities.
The areas we are interested in are:
Good forestry practices and preservation of native forests and ancient woodlands;
Carbon sinking by introducing specialist fungi;
Recovering and recycling woodland debris within the forest system;
Inoculating trees and stumps, using mushroom mulches, and trailing various techniques;
Growing a number of high value mushrooms in intensive systems that still promote forest health;
Introducing forest products such as honey, where mushrooms provide additional support to bees;
Encouraging the use of Mycorrhizal fungi – specialist fungi used for the enhancement of new and transplanted trees;
Utilising fungi for soil erosion in steep-sided and degrading woodlands;
Utilising fungi in water run-off management;
Strengthening small businesses and creating skills alliances within communities;
Increasing forestry economy and promoting economic diversity;
Strengthening communities' connection to forests and woodlands though educational workshops.
With the support of Washington State University, Mycologist Paul Stamets has been exploring how mycology can support bee health by providing bees with medicinal mushroom extracts. Thus providing less toxic and more effective ways to control the diseases, pests and environmental toxins that are implemented in winter hive losses and colony collapse disorder.
Following on the coat tails of Paul Stamets and his recent research, we are about to embark on our own small project to address bee health. We're also interested in trailing the incorporation of specific mushrooms into bee habitats and around bee hives in order to encourage bees to naturally forage beneficial mushroom enzymes and antivirals.
ECOLOGICAL APPROACHES TO
CLEANING WATER & MYCOFILTRATION
In 2013, Beth received a prestigious Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship and travelled to South Africa
in early 2014 to undertake research into 'Eco Logical Water Solutions – A No Dependency Approach'.
Her emphasis was on technical ecosystem approaches to water collection and treatment, which covered mycolfiltration: fungi to filter water of pollutants – and how this system can be linked to bio-plant/phytoremediation, biodigestors, wormeries and other innovative technologies. She has been examining how systems can be scaled up and down and how communities can engage with different types of water provision.
We continue to be involved in the remote development of a Mycofiltration Pilot Project in Kynsna – South Africa, supporting the River Health Programme with Biowise as well as working with Hope Spot initiative, which supports special conservation areas that are critical to the health of the ocean. The work will support public mobilisation by providing the research, guidance and tools for the public to take valuable action.
Download Travelling Fellowship Report
WOMEN WHO BUILD
We value community mobilisation in a broad sense: always on the look out to develop a variety of ways to achieve our goals, grow networks and build skills.
Women Who Build is one of those avenues, creating a women's only space for learning practical building skills, whilst networking, sharing new ideas and enhancing well-being. We work with skilled local women to deliver workshops in a variety of areas. Recent workshops include construction of a shed and lean-to, using solid timber frame and sawn timber cladding.
"It was a fun and informative day. I loved that the different facilitators brought different styles and skills to the project. Great Balance. I'm really looking forward to the next one."
- Cath McGregor, Todmorden