Non timber forest products

dwheeler at teleport.com dwheeler at teleport.com
Tue Feb 11 01:51:02 EST 1997


In article <P1/+y0O5IkoE091yn at teleport.com>,
  larryc at teleport.com (Larry Caldwell) wrote:
>
> In article <32F8C7EC.797E at livingston.net>,
> Don Staples <dstaples at livingston.net> wrote:
>
> > Joseph Zorzin wrote:  In response to Ron W.
>
> > > But, realistically these alternative income sources are only going to
> > > work if the landowner is willing to invest his time to do the work. I
> > > don't think I could harvest enough mushrooms or herbs at my outrageous
> > > hourly fee to make any profit for the landowner. Most of my clients
> > > couldn't care less about doing this work. They retain me since in my
> > > state (Mass.)I can get their property tax reduced by 95% and make them a
> > > substantial profit from timber sales. Mushroom and herbs just don't get
> > > factored in.
>

RE: outrageous hourly fee, I'm not sure what you're charging. But I do
know that if you are not cultivating mycorrhizal fungi, or growing fungi
with your woodlands, you are not "growing" anything. The fifth
requirement to grow trees is mycorrhizal fungi. Between 85-95% of all
plant life on earth requires mycorrhizal fungi for existence. While this
has long been suspected, only recently was a Glomites fungus found in
Devonian era shale, associated with a variety of club moss. The Devonian
was important for a couple of reasons here: it heralded the beginning of
terrestrial-based plants, and therefore allowed terrestrial animal life
to gain a foothold. Glomites is so closely related to modern Glomus
truffles that they are nearly indistinquishable.

As for mushrooms and other fungi, consider this: A 2-acre truffle
plantation in New Zealand last year produced 100 kilograms of truffles
(220 pounds) which sold for $400,000 NZ (about $300,000 US). This was the
first year of production from a truffle orchard 5-6 years old. No one
currently knows how long the crop will continue to produce, but it will
likely increase next year. So one wonders: what is your time worth?

> I think perhaps you are getting suckered into the mechanized agriculture/
> high input system of agriculture.  If you are doing any work on this,
> you are going about it all wrong.  Mycorrhizcal species grow in association
> with the tree, and enhance tree growth enough that the innoculation
> process (cheap at planting) should pay for itself many times over.  After
> that, no additional work is required, except for picking.  Pickers can
> be paid by the pound, or charged a fee for entry.  Also, you can act
> as exclusive buyer on your own property, and simply act as the broker.
>

In the truffle orchard I and a local tree farmer have established, I
agree to pay him 10-20% of what I get in truffles. I actively assist in
maintaining the health and diversity of fungi in the stand. The tree farm
encompasses some 83 acres total, and has already produced over 60 species
of truffles. Several of these have been commercially grown. Over six of
these species have been species novum, or new to science.

Several truffle species are found with the same trees. This makes
estimating total product difficult, but some Douglas fir are associated 
with over 40 species of mycorrhizal fungi fruiting at the same time
(Cortinarii, Helen V. Smith). This suggests that many truffles and other
economically important mycorrhizal fungi (matsutake, chanterelles,
boletes, etc.) can also be grown + with the same trees.+ Those who ignore
this, do so at their own economic risk.

> In this area, most landowners license pickers, though smaller tract owners
> sometimes deliver mushrooms to produce markets.  Supermarkets in this area
> commonly sell chanterelles in the fall and morels in the spring with good
> consumer acceptance.  Average price to the consumer is around $10/lb.
>
> Higher value mushrooms, like white truffles, are sold through the express
> mailorder market, and bring around $130/lb.  I've been trying to get some
> of the people involved in that market to post here.  Boletus Edulis,
> mycorrhizal with pines, is commonly dried and exported to Europe.  The last
> market quote I saw on dried B. Edulis was around $70/lb, though of course
> there's a lot of weight loss in the drying process.
>

I'm assuming Larry is referring here to me. Since 1986 I have cultivated
truffles with 5-10 foot Douglas fir in a Christmas-tree plantation. My
business is the only producing fresh truffle site at this time. From
sample harvesting in 1990, the site is producing 300-1300 pounds per acre
per year, based on two truffle species production: Tuber gibbosum Harkn.
and T. giganteum Gilkey. Since these species fruit at different times of
the year, and may vary in production rates over time, and estimate of 300
pounds per acre per year is, in my opinion, conservative. At the $130/lb.
level we were selling at, the stand would produce $36,000 per acre per
year. Additionally, since truffles are mycorrhizal and assist in
gathering water, nutrients and protection against pathogenic fungi (root
rots), the trees grow rapidly and fairly healthy. They are now starting
to slow down their growth rate, probably because of intense
over-crowding. This crowding may also affect the truffle production over
time.

> > There is also the problem of having a market for the product.  Texas has made an effort
> > to use one of our trash trees for a source bed for the shitake mushroom. We have a
> > rudimentary industry now, but the market has not developed as expected.  We have a
>
> Shiitake are grown here too, using chips, cereals, or bolts of white oak as
> a substrate.  It seems like a lot of work for a mushroom, if you know what
> I mean.  Even so, all food stores, even the local mom and pop markets around
> here, carry shiitakes in the produce section right along side the agaricus
> bisporus.  Is your problem the lack of a local wholesale produce market,
> or lack of consumer acceptance?  I know that mushroom consumption is very
> much a cultural thing, and people only eat mushrooms if their grandparents
> did.  I would think by now Texas would be cosmopolitan enough to support
> a good sized fresh mushroom market.  Is competition from Mexico a problem?
>
> > US forestry has not developed to the point of European usage of total production per
> > acre.  We have been blessed with abundance, and have squandered parts of the resource.
> > Some or our brothern have been managing for an ecological system for years, others the
> > pine plantation, and it is the market forces that prevent total utilization.  Hell, we
> > can't move top wood in Texas, too labor intensive, too low a value and a marginal
> > product.
>
> The pulp market has been pretty depressed this year.  Nobody around here has
> been able to peddle any junk trees either, the mills just don't want them.
> Summer before last, they were paying $30/ton for oak and madrone, enough
> to make land clearing a break-even proposition.  The local white oak isn't
> worth much as lumber, since it stains easily.  A local cooperage has
> started to ship 10,000 barrel lots to France, though.  It seems our white
> oak is comparable to the European white oak for wine barrels.  It's a niche
> market, but they've got a mill going with 90 employees.
>
> -- Larry
>
> > When the demand is created, we'll grown what is necessary to fill the demand.
> > Meanwhile, some of us work to keep our little portion of the world as wild as possible.
> > Occasionally we are successful.

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