Our mycology expert, Dr. Ivanka Milenkovic, gave a second workshop on culturing mushrooms. This one was held at the Picuris Pueblo. In the photo at left, Ivanka is demonstrating the steps required to secure pure cultures of a particular mushroom. She explained that these cultures are taken from the inside tissue of live mushrooms and grown first in petri dishes filled with sterilized wet sawdust from various NM forest trees. When the mycellium grows, it is placed in jars, filled with the sawdust, to get greater mycellium growth. Then it is saved on a sterile agar bed in test tubes or petri dishes. The first New Mexico native mushroom culture bank will be a refrigerated collection of these test tubes. Agar, with mycellium in the middle of a test tube, is shown at right.
Luther Martinez and other members of the Picuris Forestry Team had an opportunity to put on plastic gloves and try various mushroom techniques under the guidance of Dr. Milenkovic. The Team will be able to apply these techniques on the small diameter and non-native trees that they are clearing from the forest for fire safety. Our earlier lab tests showed that a pleurotus oyster mushroom will grow when inoculated directly on branches and sawdust of "waste" wood.
The photos show russian olive and salt cedar splinters after being inoculated with pleurotus. The white spots on the splinters are the new mycellium growth. Our next tests will use other species of mushrooms such as polyporous, mycorrhizae and others to see how well they grow on the thinned waste of the tree. We have yet to see if this process will work well in the wild.
While Ivanka was here, we went to Las Cruces to meet with faculty from New Mexico State University. The Agronomy and Horticulture Department is interested in working with us on a project to promote a permanent culture bank for fungi and other organisms beneficial for forestry and agriculture work. The photo shows, left to right, Ivanka Milenkovic, Fernando Cardena (Professor of Civil Engineering), Lynda Taylor (co-director of SCZ), John Mexal (Dept. of Agronomy and Horticulture), Steve Loring (Agriculture Experiment Station in Las Cruces), and several others who left before the photo was taken.
They also want to set up a collaborative with Ivanka and Belgrade University as well as the non profit farmers association in Serbia that she directs. Several issues including growing edible oyster mushrooms on waste wood and using the spent substrate as an animal feed would be investigated.
In the Las Cruces area, pecan tree cuttings are the main source of waste wood. At present the cuttings are burned creating a pollution problem of concern to the State of New Mexico Environment Dept. We are using pecan tree cuttings in our on-going tests of growing mushrooms on waste wood substrate and using the spent substrate for animal feed. Pleurotus mushrooms appear to be growing well on pecan branches.
SCZ (Sustainable Communities/ZERI-NM) is also testing the pecan tree cuttings to see if they make good charcoal. This would be another way to use the cuttings for a value-added product instead of allowing them to become a disposal problem.
Ivanka has been working under a US Dept. of Agriculture international grant program doing this work and they have also expressed interest in this type of collaboration.
Will and Janette Fischer, at right, have joined the SCZ Staff as biologists. They are in charge of carrying on the mushroom projects started by Dr. Milenkovic. They will take care of the New Mexico Native Mushroom Culture Bank, search for additions to the bank and pursue other projects that arise concerning fungi.
SCZ is working with the science staff at the International Boundary and Water Commission to test various edible fungi on the invasive hydrilla plant. Due to nutrient runoff into the Rio Grande, hydrilla is growing rapidly and is choking off water flow in the river. If hydrilla can be harvested for value-added products, it could stop herbicide spraying, leave the river in healthier condition, and bring economic opportunities to the border region where the need is great.
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