Does Nature Know Best?

dwheeler at teleport.com dwheeler at teleport.com
Mon Jan 12 22:51:44 EST 1998


In article <19980112055601.AAA13543 at ladder01.news.aol.com>,
  forestfair at aol.com (ForestFair) wrote:
>
> Daniel B. Wheeler's <dwheeler at teleport.com> testimonials for mycorrhizal fungi
> have been as prolific as the fungi seem to be -- perhaps  they are mushrooming
> so rapidly that it's hard to digest them all.
>
> >I regret to burst the bubble, but I am unconvinced that foresters know
> >how to grow trees.
>
> I don't know a thing about mycorrhizal fungi.  I'm don't know if my trees do.
> either.  What I do know is that as a landowner, I don't hire a forester to grow
> my trees.  Time and Mother Nature do it quite well.  Whether with or without
> mycorrhizal fungi, I do not know.
>

The problem I have with foresters is that they presume to know how to
grow trees. Too often, a forester instead is one who knows how to cut
trees. There is a considerable difference between these two actions.

If you are growing more trees than you are cutting, you still have
redeeming social value. ;)

> I do know, however, that if a forester went around my woodland innoculating my
> trees with a living organism because he/she thought that Mother Nature had
> omitted something, he'd no longer be employed by me.
> And being from New York, maybe I'd even take him to court <g>.
>

And I certainly am not interested in trying to inoculate truffles in New
York. There are very few Douglas fir there, and the truffles I cultivate
are found only with Douglas fir. But I did just take a chef from Waccabuc
to the truffle farm last Saturday. In five minutes I had a handful.

> With history to remind us of the many accidental and intentional introductions
> of various living organisms into ecosystems where they did not previously exist
> and the disastrous results that can occur when the organisms that keep them in
> check in their normal environment are not present, how can one say with
> certainty that just because something is not present, that it represents a
> deficiency?  A deficiency that must be corrected?
>

First of all, I am interested in growing mostly native fungal species.
Thus your concerns about introduced species are not valid.

It has been shown that 100% of terrestrial-rooted Western hemlock are
associated with mycorrhizal fungi. What part of 100% don't you
understand?

> Those who brought us the English sparrow, the water chestnut, the gypsy moth,
> all thought that they were improving upon Mother Nature.  The recent
> introduction of zebra mussels in the northeast is an example of what can happen
> when an organism is turned loose in a favorable environment with none of the
> natural predators that keep it in check where it has been present "naturally,"
>

I share your concern for importing pests. Mostly I'm worried that someone
will try importing the Siberian gypsy moth in untreated lumber from
Russia. This profoundly parasitic pest is capable of defoliating all
timber, non-timber, and most shrubs and woody plants. It has already been
caught in Seattle, and is believed transported from ships coming from
China and Russia.

> In other posts it has been suggested that the renumeration from fungi may
> exceed that received for timber.  I suggest that this is likely to be a
> temporary situation.

At that point, one can always harvest some trees. ;)

  Those who were the first to produce shiitake on oak slabs
> here were able to get about $20 a pound for them, which represented a good
> return.  So more people grew more of them and the price dropped.  Now that most
> local supermarkets have them at under $4 a pound, it's no longer profitable to
> grow them with the intention of marketing them.  Why would it be different with
> less common mushrooms?
>
I think this has more to do with supply and demand than mushroom species.

Shiitake was a relatively easy fungus to cultivate. You may be interested
that over 100,000 pounds of dried shiitake are imported each year to the
US from Korea, Japan and China. Local farmers have to compete with these
imports. Generally, one dried pound equals 10 pounds of fresh mushrooms.

At one of Paul Stamets' presentations to the Oregon Mycological Society,
he held up a bag containing about 3 cents of sawdust. In the other he
held a bag of fruiting shiitake from the same sawdust. He pointed out
that the mushrooms fruiting on the block had a value of $10. Would you
rather receive 3 cents for sawdust from your trees, or $10 from
mushrooms? That sawdust could as easily come from limbs as from whole
trees.

> And who (other than Alice) wants to sit under a mushroom on a hot sunny day?
>

No one requires you to do this. Not everyone can learn how to grow
mushrooms. In Oregon at the beginning of shiitake cultivation, 200 people
tried to grow it. Only about 20 succeeded.

Please keep posting. You are asking important questions.

> ForestFair

Daniel B. Wheeler
http://www.oregonwhitetruffles.com

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