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Monday, April 21, 2014

Mycoremediation Workshop at the New Leaf Eco Center

The soil plot before the mycoremediation
As most of our readers know, TLC is located in Kennett Square, PA, AKA the Mushroom Capital of the World, where almost half of America's mushrooms are grown. TLC sticks to our roots (or mycelia--the spidery web-like "root" system of fungi) by incorporating the mushroom industry in our work whenever possible. Our nature preserves provide hay for local mushroom farmers, we host an annual series of wild foraging events, and we use mycoremediation at our New Leaf Eco CenterThrough this innovative method, fungi use their natural digestive systems to clear soil of toxins. 

In 2011 and 2012, we successfully used mycoremediation to cleanse plots of soil of DDT.
2011- 2012 remediated site with
edible forest garden plantings

This past Friday, April 18th, we returned to the New Leaf Eco Center for another Mycoremediation Workshop. The workshop’s purpose was to implement the process on another plot of soil, and to share the method with our community. We hosted the event thanks to the support of the American Mushroom Institute and The Mushroom Festival, Inc.

Workshop participants examining mushroom spawn
The workshop began with Melissa Miles, local permaculture expert and Environmental Biologist, giving an overview of fungi, how they grow, and how they absorb and digest toxins. Melissa enlightened the group with information about fungi and how important they are to our environment, as well as plenty of fun facts. Did you know that the largest living organism in the world is a 2,000+ acre armillaria ostoyae fungus in Oregon? Or that fungi are more genetically and chemically similar to animals than they are to plants?

A layer of cardboard helps mycelium grow 
After the talk, our group got to work making layers of wood chips mixed with oyster mushroom spawn, recycled cardboard (cardboard is easier for the mycelium to grow in, giving it a head-start before it reaches the wood chips), fresh mushroom compost provided by Phillips Mushroom Farms, and straw on the soil plot. Oyster mushrooms have proven most successful in removing DDT, a toxin which, because of its widespread use in the 70s, is found in a great deal of US agricultural soil.

Spreading fresh mushroom compost
Also leading the workshop was West Chester University Biology Professor Dr. Greg Turner. Under his guidance, we varied the depth of the layers in order to monitor and gauge the most ideal conditions for growth and remediation. Dr. Turner will collect the results of the mycoremediation for future scientific publication as we continue to maintain the site with frequent watering and monitoring. The oyster mushrooms will consume and digest the soil, a process that will result in chemical changes that eradicate DDT levels.

Spreading wood chips mixed with fungi spawn onto the plot
The group of workshop participants included local environmentalists, students, mushroom enthusiasts, and neighbors. We even got a visit from a member of the Vincenti family, who donated the property to TLC in 2003. The day started out chilly, but soon everyone could take off their jackets thanks to shoveling, raking, watering, breaking up mushroom spawn, spreading straw, and tearing cardboard into strips (which isn't as easy as it sounds!). If all goes well, the site will be safe for edible planting after approximately three months. By monitoring and publishing the results, we hope to encourage widespread use of mycoremediation to the benefit of the environment and community.

TLC's Gwen Lacy with Jane Vincenti, whose family donated the property to TLC 11 years ago

After a successful mycoremediation installation 
If you would like to help TLC maintain the mycoremediation site, which needs to be watered every day, please contact us at 610-347-0347 x.101. The Mycoremediation Workshop is just one of the many exciting happenings at the New Leaf Eco Center this year. Our Open Hive Day series begins at the site in May and will happen monthly until the hives are closed in October. The New Leaf Eco Center is open to the public from dawn until dusk. Stop by to see our Edible Forest Garden, Apiary, Composting Demonstration Site, BioSwale, and Wetland Observation Area.

Stay tuned for our Wild Foraging Series, which begins May 31st with a Medicinal Plant Hike. The series continues with the Wild Edible Plant Hike and Mushroom Identification Hike. 

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