How to enhance mushroom production sustainability?

Mushroom production doesn’t go always by hand with sustainability due to the use of fossil resources such as peat. So how to improve this situation?

The role of casing soil

Optimizing composting and casing production together with switching to renewable energy sources appeared to be the most effective solution to reduce the overall environmental impacts of mushroom production, in particular on climate change. This was observed in a holistic assessment of three systems across Europe in Spain, Poland and Serbia. Therefore, any mushroom growers can improve their impact by increasing mushroom productivity and reducing the amount of compost and peat used.

These results were obtained with a life cycle assessment which included all the phases upstream from the mushroom production such as peat extraction, compost production, transport and the impacts related to the mushroom cultivation and packaging. Life cycle assessment is an holistic environmental assessment which allows to consider multiple environmental impacts. In this assessment, we consider the impact on climate, energy consumption, eutrophication and acidification related to mushroom production across Europe.

 

Mushroom Production: Data Scarcity and Variability

Mushrooms have become a relevant part of our diet globally, as non-animal sources of proteins; but data on their value chain and environmental impact are still scarce. Therefore, a good understanding of the environmental impacts of mushroom production, the environmental hotspots throughout the value chain, comparisons between production systems and regions, and an assessment of the improvement potential of mushroom production is required.

 

In this research, we found that there is a large variability in the composition of the substrates, which is in all cases a combination of compost (mainly straw and animal manure) topped by casing materials (mainly peat), and a large variability in energy use, substrate use and yields. Especially the Serbian organic dried mushroom case distinguishes from the other conventional fresh mushroom cases. This is also reflected in the life cycle impact assessment results.

Identifying potential solutions

In the BIOSCHAMP project, we will further investigate different opportunities of substituting peat with other substrates and assess both the environmental impacts and the social impacts along the mushroom value chain. In particular, grass compost and spent casing will be considered as potential substitutes .

"This assessment will contribute in identifying potential solutions and alternatives to peat use in mushroom cultivation" - Pietro Goglio, UNIPG.

The life cycle assessment and the social life cycle assessment will identify key processes largely contributing the social and environmental impact of mushroom production, together with assessing how potential mushroom production management changes can affect the overall social and environmental impact of mushrooms consumed in Europe.

About the Author

Pietro Goglio is a Senior Researcher in environmental and cropping systems assessment at the UNIPG. He have directed his research towards the evaluation of cropping, agricultural, bioenergy, food, and waste systems.

The Università degli Studi di Perugia, founded in 1308, is one of the oldest universities in Italy and one of the most accredited, offering a wide variety of courses in all fields of education.

Within the BIOSCHAMP project, UNIPG is in charge of the security and sustainability of the project (WP6). Learn more about the project partners of the BIOSCHAMP project and their work here:

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