Penn State Researchers Study Used Mushroom Compost

August 12, 1997

University Park, Pa. -- A team of Penn State researchers will study mushroom substrate, the medium in which commercial mushrooms are grown, with an eye toward the best recycling method.

The Pennsylvania mushroom industry, the nation's leading producer of commercial button mushrooms, uses more than 500,000 tons of compost each year. The growth medium is composed of a mixture of straw, hay, and horse and other manures, and is composted before use.

"The compost is used for about two months and then discarded," says Dr. Patrick G. Hatcher, director of Penn State's Center for Environmental Chemistry and Geochemistry and professor of fuel science and geosciences and chemistry. "The spent mushroom substrate must be weathered for two years before it can be reused."

The mushroom industry has identified potential uses for this substrate as a soil amendment or potting media, in mine reclamation and wetland establishment. Other uses may be possible, but not much is known about the weathering of the spent substrate or the leachate that drains from the compost when it is spread over a field to weather.

Hatcher; Dr. C. Peter Romaine, associate professor of plant pathology; Dr. Jon Chorover, assistant professor of environmental soil chemistry; and Dr. Richard H. Fox, professor of soil science, will analyze and characterize the weathering compost over a three-year time span.

This joint College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Earth and Mineral Science project is sponsored by MIFBAR, Mushroom Industry Farmer-Based Applied Research project, a legislative initiative to increase the use of mushroom soil. The research is funded at $186,000 for the first year.

The project will be carried out on farm land owned by Vincent Santucci, operator of Elite Mushrooms in Avondale, Pa. A series of lysimeters -- containers that will catch the liquid that leaches out of the substrate -- were built at the surface, just below the level of the compost and then three feet below that.

The researchers will take water samples from these lysimeters following precipitation events to assess leaching from the piles of spent mushroom substrate. They will also take solid samples from the top, middle and bottom of the weathering compost at three-month intervals. Water and compost samples will be analyzed for both organic and inorganic composition.

"A multitude of methods will allow us to evaluate the trends in carbohydrates, proteins, lignin and other organic species as a function of weathering," says Hatcher.

Other analysis will investigate the soluble salt contents of the compost and the nitrogen content and composition. The leachate collected from the lysimeters will be analyzed for the same organic and inorganic contents.

"When we are done, we should know what is going on in the weathering compost, what is leaching out of the compost and what the final composition of the compost is," says Hatcher. "We will then know how the spent mushroom substrate can best be reused and how to weather it in the best way for both the environment and recycling."
-end-

EDITORS: Dr. Hatcher may be reached at (814) 865-7838 or hatch@ems.psu.edu by email. Contacts: A'ndrea Elyse Messer ,(814) 865-9481 (office), (814) 867-1774 (home), aem1@psu.psu.edu, 76520.3240@compuserve.com

Vicki Fong, (814) 865-9481 (office), (814) 238-1221 (home), vyf1@psu.edu

Penn State

Related Chemistry Articles from Brightsurf:

Searching for the chemistry of life
In the search for the chemical origins of life, researchers have found a possible alternative path for the emergence of the characteristic DNA pattern: According to the experiments, the characteristic DNA base pairs can form by dry heating, without water or other solvents.

Sustainable chemistry at the quantum level
University of Pittsburgh Associate Professor John A. Keith is using new quantum chemistry computing procedures to categorize hypothetical electrocatalysts that are ''too slow'' or ''too expensive'', far more thoroughly and quickly than was considered possible a few years ago.

Can ionic liquids transform chemistry?
Table salt is a commonplace ingredient in the kitchen, but a different kind of salt is at the forefront of chemistry innovation.

Principles for a green chemistry future
A team led by researchers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies recently authored a paper featured in Science that outlines how green chemistry is essential for a sustainable future.

Sugar changes the chemistry of your brain
The idea of food addiction is a very controversial topic among scientists.

Reflecting on the year in chemistry
A lot can happen in a year, especially when it comes to science.

Better chemistry through tiny antennae
A research team at The University of Tokyo has developed a new method for actively controlling the breaking of chemical bonds by shining infrared lasers on tiny antennae.

Chemistry in motion
For the first time, researchers have managed to view previously inaccessible details of certain chemical processes.

Researchers enrich silver chemistry
Researchers from Russia and Saudi Arabia have proposed an efficient method for obtaining fundamental data necessary for understanding chemical and physical processes involving substances in the gaseous state.

The chemistry behind kibble (video)
Have you ever thought about how strange it is that dogs eat these dry, weird-smelling bits of food for their entire lives and never get sick of them?

Read More: Chemistry News and Chemistry Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.