Press-Republican

August 26, 2012

Mushroom, ginseng workshops offered

Richard Gast, Cornell Ag Connection
Press-Republican

---- — Almost all forest landowners view their land as a potential source of income from the sale of standing timber. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the harmful, long-term environmental and financial impacts that can come from poorly planned timber harvesting.

They are also unaware of the many available income-producing opportunities that don’t compromise the quality of timber stands or put habitat, watershed, beauty, recreation or the spiritual renewal that forests offers, at risk.

If you are a forest or small-woodlot landowner considering alternative ways to use your resources, you may attend two forest-farming workshops being offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension. They are designed to introduce the techniques used for inoculating and cultivating delicious, healthy, shiitake mushrooms on logs in outdoor environments and growing “wild simulated” American ginseng in the forested environments found in the Adirondack region.

On Sept. 8, a Shiitake Mushroom Cultivation workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to noon and a Growing Ginseng workshop will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cornell Uihlein Forest and Extension Sugar Maple Research Station, 157 Bear Cub Lane, Lake Placid. For registration and Information, call 483-7403 or email rlg24@cornell.edu. The cost to attend one workshop is $15 and $25 for both.

Associate Professor of Horticulture Ken Mudge of Cornell University describes forest farming as “an approach to forest management that combines some of the management practices of conventional forestry with those of farming or gardening to achieve an environmentally and economically sustainable land-use system.”

Releasing crop trees by thinning or removing low-grade or excess small-diameter trees (culls) from timber stands has long been considered an important management practice. But conventional hardwood markets have offered little incentive for the removal of low-quality hardwood trees. In fact, they are commonly left behind after a timber harvest, a practice known as high grading, which results in unproductive land where a future return from saw timber can take 50 to 75 years or more.

However, a landowner who chooses to properly manage a timber stand by removing culls and releasing crop trees can use the removed material for shiitake mushroom production. The result is short-term payback for long-term good management.

The mushroom workshop will be a hands-on session in which participants will be given the opportunity to inoculate their own hardwood logs, which they can bring home. Each log will produce a harvest of shiitake mushrooms for years to come.

Demand for Shiitake mushrooms is on the rise, and 6,702,000 pounds were grown in the United States last year. The farm-gate value was $19,223,000.

Another forest-farming venture, production of either woods-cultivated or wild simulated ginseng, can be pursued as a hobby or a means of producing significant income. Woods-cultivated ginseng is grown in a forested environment in tilled beds under natural shade, while wild simulated ginseng is grown in forests in untilled soil. Growing ginseng using either of these methods usually requires little or no work after planting and there are markets for both.

A well-prepared bed of woods-cultivated ginseng will be ready for harvest years before wild cultivated ginseng. And yields from woods-cultivated ginseng will be greater. But a well-prepared bed of woods-cultivated ginseng may be easily recognized by poachers, and problems resulting from insects and diseases, although rare, are most likely in intensively managed woods-cultivated plantings.

This workshop will address cultivation of wild simulated ginseng, whose roots can be virtually identical to those of truly wild ginseng and, because of this, is typically worth more than woods-cultivated ginseng. In 2011, wild simulated ginseng sold on world markets for more than $500 per dry pound. Focus will also be on how to identify growing areas and how to propagate and manage plantings. We’ll also look at ginseng botany, harvesting, drying and marketing.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that ginseng cultivation on private woodlands in New York State generates over $3 million annually, and that the value of out-of-state harvested ginseng bought and sold by New York dealers each year exceeds $50 million.

Ginseng is considered a medicinal herb that can increase energy and endurance, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote overall good health. Be forewarned, however. Removing even small quantities of ginseng from state land is illegal.

Richard L. Gast, Extension program educator II, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy; agriculture programs assistant, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953. Phone 483-7403, fax 483-6214, email rlg24@cornell.edu.