Shiitake (L. edodes) is an edible mushroom-producing fungus, used in Asian cuisine and traditional medicine for hundreds of years (Mudge et al., 2013). In 2017–18, U.S. commercial specialty mushroom producers sold $45 million of shiitake (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2019). Shiitake can be produced on sawdust blocks or natural logs, but log-grown shiitake command a 50% wholesale price premium (Gold et al., 2008). Forest farming of shiitake on logs has become popular among hobbyists and small farmers, as it involves little specialized equipment or labor after inoculation (Gold et al., 2008).
Inoculation involves inserting spawn into holes drilled into logs recently cut from living hardwood trees. Logs do not need to be re-inoculated and can continue to fruit periodically for 3 to 5 years (Frey, 2020). Logs can be obtained from tops and branches, or felled trees, such as from thinning of stands. Thinning of low-value timber trees for shiitake cultivation, to allow the remaining higher-value timber trees greater opportunity to grow, offers a straightforward economic opportunity for some woodlot owners (Bruhn and Hall, 2008; Gold et al., 2008).
Oaks (Quercus sp.), particularly white oak (Q. alba), are recognized as preferred species for shiitake production in North America (Mudge et al., 2013). White oak is widely distributed throughout eastern North America, typically in mixed midsuccession stands. However, it has a range of other potential uses, including timber. Thus, there has been interest in identifying alternative species for shiitake production (Mudge et al., 2013), but there is limited scientific literature quantifying productivity. Species tested include northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which demonstrate good potential, whereas american beech (Fagus grandifolia), black cherry (Prunus serotina), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and american sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) have poor potential (Bratkovich, 1991; Bruhn et al., 2003, 2009; Sabota, 1996). Although these species exist in the southeastern United States, none are particularly common throughout the landscape. The objective of our research was to test low-value, common tree species from the southeastern United States as potential alternatives to white oak for shiitake production.
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Budget for shiitake on white oak. Assumptions and results of budgets for other log species are presented in Supplemental Table 2.
Comparison of key assumptions and results of shiitake budgets on four log species.