The Mushroom Council Unveils Report On Mushroom Impact
- by Laura Hillen
REDWOOD SHORES, CA – With their distinct tastes, versatile applications, and health benefits, it’s no wonder why mushrooms are a consumer favorite. Now, to add to that list, comes another consumer interest; low environmental impact. According to a study released by The Mushroom Council, the mushroom can now be considered as gentle on the planet.
“Our growers have long sought to benchmark their production practices to not only accurately measure our environmental impact, but also seek opportunities to improve upon our practices,” said Bart Minor, President and CEO of the Mushroom Council. “Like all agricultural producers nationwide, we all want to ‘do better’ when it comes to being stewards of the environment. We are humbled to finally measure what we consider a low environmental footprint, but equally motivated to find opportunities to lower it even more.”
The study is the result of a two-year initiative, and is titled The Mushroom Sustainability Story: Water, Energy and Climate Environmental Metrics 2017. According to a press release, the study was underwent in order to document mushroom production environment metrics. In regards to water, energy, and carbon emissions the following data was unearthed for one pound of mushrooms:
- Needs only 1.8 gallons of water
- Needs only 1.0 kilowatt hours of energy
- Generates only .7 pounds of CO
The report also unveiled that the annual yield of mushrooms is 7.1 pounds per square foot, which means that up to a million pounds of mushrooms that can be produced on one acre.
The research for the study was performed and developed by SureHarvest, a leading sustainability analysis and research firm. The study spans the practices of 21 facilities nationwide, which makes up one-third of the U.S. fresh mushroom crop. Information was collected for the study on all steps of the production process, including composting, spawning, casing and pinning, and harvesting.
“SureHarvest’s two-year analysis concludes that the amount of natural resources and space required to grow mushrooms is remarkably low compared to the published data on other foods,” said Dr. Jeff Dlott, President and CEO of SureHarvest, and Chief Researcher for the project. “Mushrooms can now definitively be considered one of the most sustainably produced foods in the United States.”
The key findings of the report are as follows:
Water Required is a Fraction Compared to Other Foods
SureHarvest calculated the overall water footprint per pound of production by collecting information on fresh water applied, precipitation, and water embedded in the composting ingredients. The 1.8 gallons of water required to produce a pound of mushrooms is a fraction of water inputs required for many other foods.
Keeping CO2 Emissions and Energy Footprint in Check
To determine the 1.0 kilowatt hours (kWh) energy usage per pound of mushrooms, researchers calculated energy consumed during harvest by converting fuel use by type into kWh, then combined with kWh of electricity use. CO2 equivalent emissions were calculated by tracking total emissions from electricity and fuel used for composting equipment and growing operations (e.g. equipment, heating, cooling, etc.).
Mushrooms’ Small Growing Space Conserves Soil, Nets High Yields
The study calculated the average yield per square foot by measuring more than 42 million square feet of mushroom production area. Each year, growers are able to produce millions of pounds of mushrooms on just a few acres of land. In addition, the soil used to produce mushrooms is made of composted materials. After mushrooms are harvested, the soil is recycled for multiple uses, including potting soil. The 7.1 pounds of mushroom yield per square foot is achieved in part because mushroom beds are stacked vertically in growing facilities, allowing a high volume of mushrooms to be grown in a relatively small space.
How Fresh Mushrooms Are Grown
Last year, U.S. growers produced more than 946 million pounds of fresh mushrooms. Mushrooms’ growing process is one of the most unique stories in agriculture. For example, mushroom production is naturally sustainable, as inputs to the composting process are primarily recycled materials and agricultural byproducts.