Practical guide for fungiculturists: How to make a success of your mushroom orchard ?

How to successfully plant a mushroom orchard ?

Specialized in mycorrhization applied to truffle and fungiculture, ROBIN Nurseries propose to accompany you, step by step, in the creation of your mushroom orchard. From the choice of plants, the selection of the plot, the planting method, the maintenance and pruning of the mushroom trees... to the harvesting of your first yellow boletes or milk-caps, find all our advice through this practical guide to mushroom growing in the open ground. It contains everything you need to know to successfully plant a mushroom farm! Please note that in addition to this guide, our teams are at your disposal to advise you at each step of the realization of your mushroom orchard and thus obtain the best yield.

Quick overview of the edible mushroom farming

Whether it is for its culinary interest or its medicinal benefits, the mushroom has been part of our diet for a very long time. The cultivation of edible mushrooms (fungiculture or myciculture) has continued to evolve and progress over the decades. Several production techniques are still used today to try to reproduce the natural living conditions of certain mushrooms. In the open air (on wood logs, on stumps, or by sowing spores) or sheltered from the light (in underground quarries, mushroom beds and cellars according to the technique known as "on layers"), these different techniques make it possible today to produce shiitake, button mushroom, oyster mushroom, blue foot and other stropharia.

Soil-less cultivation of mushrooms continues to progress thanks to the mycorrhization of host plantsNowadays, the industrial or family production of mushrooms is constantly developing and cultivation techniques are now largely based on biotechnologies and soilless cultivation processes. This observation leads us to underline the high technicality of modern mushroom cultivation.

We distinguish two families of cultivable mushrooms :
- Saprophytic species that grow on organic matter formed by dead plants (compost, wood, bark, straw, etc.). The basic principle of cultivation is to create a productive nutritive support with which to obtain the complete cycle of the fungus as quickly as possible, in an air-conditioned room.
- The mycorrhizal species that live and grow live in close association with the roots of certain trees. This association is called symbiosis: the fungus receives most of its energy from the tree and provides it with mineral elements (phosphorus, nitrogen, etc.). Cultivation requires the realization, under controlled conditions, of this association, and then a breeding "in the field" of the symbiotic system.

Progress in myciculture has made it possible to cultivate new species on a regular basis, so that fungiculture is gradually moving towards quality varieties, such as yellow boletes or milk caps. So many species of mycorrhizal mushrooms can now be grown outdoors !

Learn more about mushroom growing

Requirements and success factors for an edible mushroom orchard

If in a mushroom cellar, the main issue is the stabilization of substrates, ambient temperature and humidity, the cultivation of edible mycorrhizal fungi faces other constraints. Several conditions must be met to promote the development of mushrooms in an orchard :

  • the geographical location and the resulting climatic conditions necessarily influence the yield of a mushroom orchard (periods of frost, wind, cumulative rainfall are all factors to be taken into consideration)
  • the previous crop (and possible competition with other mycorrhizal fungi) also directly influence the success of a mycicultural planting project.

In addition to these geographical, climatic and cultural criteria, other factors must be taken into consideration in order to give yourself the best chance of success when planting a mushroom orchard. Thus, professional fungiculturists agree that 5 fundamental factors determine the success and sustainability of an edible mushroom cultivation project in the open ground :

  1. The quality of the mycorrhized plants
  2. The quality of the soil (the aptitude of the soil for fungiculture, its physical and chemical qualities...)
  3. The planting method (soil preparation, plant protection...)
  4. The possibility to irrigate the mushroom orchard
  5. The maintenance of the plantation over time
Crutial !
The choice of mushroom plants, the soil characteristics, the planting method, the irrigation and the maintenance given to the plantation are the 5 fundamental factors for the success of a mushroom orchard.

1. Choosing mushroom plants: Focus on the quality of mycorrhizal plants

Choosing a Robin mushroom plan is the assurance of choosing a plant whose quality is certifiedIn general, choose tree species that are already naturally present in your area. Make an inventory of the conifers already established in the woods and forests near your plots. While Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) remain the best choice for growing mycorrhizal mushrooms, other pine species are suitable for producing edible mushrooms: Austrian black pine or umbrella pine.

Once you have taken the time to select the species that will acclimatize most easily to your territory, do not neglect the quality of the plants that will make up your orchard. Choose plants with certified mycorrhization and that are produced according to rigorous methods. To increase your chances of success, choose plants with a recovery rate close to 100% (you will save yourself many disappointments a few months after their planting).

For mushroom plants, you can choose between young plants grown in 0.430 L or 0.6 L cups. Just be aware that by choosing plants raised in a larger volume bucket, you reduce your failure rate after planting (a plant raised in a 0.6 L bucket will have a more developed root system than in a 0.430 L bucket, so its ability to recover and develop after planting will be higher).

In the mycicultural world, ROBIN® mycorrhizal plants are recognized as the best and are the only ones that combine a production method under license and INRAE control + an environmental certification MPS A. The icing on the cake is that ROBIN mushroom plants are guaranteed to recover !

Discover the range of ROBIN mushroom plants

2. Climate and topography favorable to a mushroom orchard implentation

Geographical location and climate are very important factors for the success of a mycicultural plantation. Even if you have chosen the best mycorrhizal plants, if they are planted in an area where the climate is unfavorable to the development of mushrooms, your project is in trouble and your future harvests will be compromised... Before starting a fungiculture project, it is therefore necessary to make sure that your geographical location (altitude, orientation, topography...) and the associated climate are compatible with the cultivation of at least one variety of edible mushroom.

    

Ideal climate for fungiculture

Generally speaking, the cultivation of edible mushrooms in the open ground requires a temperate climate. It needs a sufficient, but not excessive, alternation of seasons, during which rainfall, temperature and sunshine are fairly distributed.

Predilection altitude of the boletes and lactaries

Depending on local conditions, yellow boletes, delicious milk caps and blood milk caps can grow up to 1300 or 1400 m, but the vast majority of mushroom orchards are generally located at lower altitudes, around 500 to 900 meters. Keep in mind that the higher you go, the more unfavorable factors for mushrooms increase (risk of too long periods of frost, higher snowfall...).

Complacency topography of boletes and milk caps

The optimal soil for the bloody milkcap is a calcareous soil. On the other hand, the delicious milkcaps grow on slightly acidic to neutral soil. Their optimum is located on pH close to neutrality.
Rainfall is also an important factor to consider, as mushrooms are sensitive to humidity levels. A high natural humidity is an optional criterion, but it greatly increases the chances of success.
The site chosen should have good drainage: it should not be subject to surface water accumulation in the spring or during heavy rains.

Perfect exposure of a mushroom orchard

An ideal site has a good forest cover, i.e. between 75-90% cover, to protect crops from drought caused by direct sun exposure. The forest stand will ideally be dominated by conifers.

3. Assess your soil's suitability for growing mushrooms

The properties of the soil (physical and chemical qualities) determine its suitability for the production of edible mushrooms. Its structure, pH, organic matter content, and drainage capacity are all characteristics that confirm whether your soil is suitable for the establishment of a mushroom orchard. This analysis will guide you on the host species of mushroom plants to consider, but also on the most promising variety of mushroom according to the typology of your soil.

The importance of soil testing

Soil analysis remains an essential preliminary step for any mushroom orchard projectWhen a plot of land is selected for a future mushroom plantation, it is essential to have a soil analysis done. The purpose of this analysis is to determine the species: host (tree) and especially fungi best suited to your land. They depend on the physical and chemical characteristics of your soil, and in particular its acidity (pH), calcium content and organic matter.

We advise you to have a physico-chemical analysis of your soil done before planting any PLANT CHAMPIGNON®. Based on the results of this analysis and the description of the site conditions, we will be able to advise you on the species of fungus and the host tree best adapted to your situation..

Find out how to perform a soil analysis

Each edible mushroom has its own field of predilection

The yellow boletus : Suillus luteus is indifferent to the pH of the soil, it can be found on acidic sandy soil as well as on calcareous substrates.

Lactaries : Lactarrius deliciosus and Lactarius sanguifluus generally grow in acidic soils but can also be found in calcareous soils.

Be careful with previous crops

It is known that heaths or meadows, especially alfalfa and sainfoin, prepare the mycicultural orchard. These plants do not harbor ectomycorrhizal fungi, which considerably limits the potential of competitive mycorrhizae of boletes and other mildews. On the other hand, it is not recommended to install a mushroom orchard on a recent clearing (less than 5 years). The risk of contamination of young plants by the mycorrhizal strains naturally present on the trees in place is very high, with a decrease in the chances of producing edible mushrooms. It is also not recommended to plant in the middle of a wood or nearby for the same reasons.

4. Planting mushroom orchards: how to proceed ?

Mycorrhizal trees with fungal voccation usually start producing fungi 3 to 4 years after planting. Provided, of course, that they are planted properly and effectively protected from rodents and game.

Site preparation

If the terrain allows it, the ideal preparation consists of a full ploughing at a depth of 25 to 30 cm. It should be noted that in most Mediterranean areas, subsoiling to a depth of 60/80 cm is essential to prepare the soil for planting. If the surface or the configuration of the ground does not allow the ploughing, one will work the ground in posts of 1 m of side on 30 cm of depth.
If the soil is very stony, remove large blocks to create a volume of loose soil of about 50 liters. This method is particularly suitable for planting small areas.

Please note that it is not recommended to plant CHAMPIGNON® PLANTS if the land is planted with trees, because even by cutting the trees and eliminating a maximum of roots, the risk of contamination of the young mycorrhizal plants by the mycorrhizal strains present on the trees in place is too important and the production results could be strongly compromised.

Storage and preparation of mushroom plants

As soon as you receive the plants, put them in an upright position and water them if necessary. Before planting, store them preferably outside on clean soil (do not store them directly on the ground), protected from frost, wind and light.

Planting of mushroom plants

Install the root ball without breaking it, making sure to cover it with 2 to 3 cm of soil. 
Concerning the distance and density of plantation, we can install the plants every 3m x 3m (1100 plants per hectare) and up to 4m x 4m (625 plants per hectare).

Mulching

Once your plants are in place, you can proceed to mulch them. Mulching with a 100% biodegradable agglomerated cork slab (ROBIN HPK slab), 70 cm in diameter, will avoid weeding while keeping moisture at the foot of the young plants during the first 2 or 3 years, which are crucial for the subsequent performance of the plantation.

Protection of your young mushroom plants

A protective windbreak sleeve will protect your young plants from game (60 cm sleeve for protection against rabbits and 120 cm sleeve against deer).

5. Maintenance of a mushroom orchard: What to do ?

Once your truffle plants have been carefully planted, mulched and protected, maintenance is limited to a superficial tilling of the soil to eliminate competing vegetation. It should be noted that the use of individual mulching allows you to eliminate the maintenance at the foot of the plants and thus limits the risks of injury to the plant on this occasion. It is preferable to use a round cork mulching slab with a diameter of 70 cm, 100% biodegradable.

6. When and how to harvest mushrooms from your orchard ?

The reward for all the work done: the harvest of mushrooms in your orchard☙ Harvesting of milk caps : Milk caps fruit in the fall, when the night temperature begins to drop to between 5 and 10°C in concomitance with the arrival of the first rains, which are necessary to induce fruiting.

☙ Harvesting yellow boletus : The fruiting period of yellow boletus extends from early summer to late fall. While the start of the harvest usually occurs after the first heavy summer rains, it can vary from region to region depending on weather conditions. The harvest of yellow boletes is spread out between mid-July and the last days of November.

7. Yield and profitability of a mushroom orchard

Growing mushrooms can be a profitable, sustainable and environmentally friendly investment. An attractive choice for good asset management.

☙ Yield of ROBIN mushroom® seedlings mycorrhized with milkcape : Milkcap production generally begins 4 years after planting. The average mushroom production per plant is about 400g (i.e. 170 to 450 kg per hectare per year, depending on the planting density).

☙ Productivity of mushroom plants® ROBIN mycorrhized with yellow boletus : The production of yellow boletes can start from the 3rd year after planting, and the average harvest per plant oscillates between 1.7 kg and 3 kg depending on the planting density (i.e. 1 to 3 tons per hectare per year).

10 questions/answers concerning the realization of a mushroom plantation

The yellow boletus, the delicious milkcap and the blood milkcap are mushrooms whose "ideal" biotope includes several soil characteristics. This is why, before starting a mushroom orchard project, we strongly advise you to have a soil analysis to check if your land is suitable for mushroom farming.

The golden rule is to copy nature. Indeed, we advise you to choose a species of tree adapted to your region, that is to say a species that grows naturally in your geographical area and especially avoid choosing a species that is not naturally present in the surroundings, close to the future plantation.

ROBIN® mushroom plants are produced in ANTI-CHIGNON® buckets of 3 different volumes (from 0.4 to 1.5 liters). In a larger volume bucket, the root development will be more important as well as the number of root apices. The number of spores will also be greater and the plant itself will have a development proportional to the volume of the cup. A ROBIN® mycicultural seedling raised in a larger cup volume will therefore have a better potential.

We offer three species of cultivable edible mushrooms. The choice of the most suitable mushroom variety for your project should be made according to the characteristics of your land and the climatic conditions of your region..

No, it is not recommended! Each species of edible mushrooms has its own requirements, the soil favorable to one species (e.g. Suillus luteus) is not necessarily favorable to bloodroot mushrooms. If you want to plant mycorrhized plants with different species of mushrooms, you should keep a minimum distance of 15 to 20 meters between your two plantations.

You can keep your mushroom plants for several days or even weeks before planting them, as they are delivered in their ROBIN ANTI-CHIGNON® cups which preserve the freshness of the root system. But you must take certain precautions: Water them regularly every 2 to 3 days while waiting for planting and keep them outside protected from frost and wind.

We formally advise against planting young plants mycorrhized with boletus or milkcaps in an existing wood; the roots of the young plants will have a very high risk of being colonized by mycorrhizae already installed on the roots of the trees that make up your forest and will hinder the development of the mycorrhizae of the mushrooms present on the young plants that you will have planted; if you wish to plant a mushroom orchard, it must be done on a site where there are no trees with ectomycorrhizae.

The maintenance of your mushroom plantation is limited to a superficial work of the soil, in order to eliminate the competing vegetation around the plants.

We do not recommend adding organic matter, mulch or other materials without a soil analysis. Only this analysis can highlight possible deficiencies that should be covered to "rebalance" your mushroom orchard.

Mushroom plants can be found and purchased in specialized nurseries such as ROBIN Nurseries. If you live near our sales points (department of 04 and 05), do not hesitate to visit us, you will benefit from precious advices before launching you. Otherwise, you can buy your mushroom plants directly online, via this website. They will be delivered at home !