Towards a sustainable, peat-free casing soil enriched with biostimulants for the mushroom sector

Peat use in mushroom cultivation is associated with a large ecological foot print. It can also be the carrier of bacterial and fungal pathogens responsible for major crop losses in mushrooms. The EU project BIOSCHAMP aims to develop peat-free casing soils based on sustainable alternatives and enriched with biostimulants which guarantee industrial profitability while reducing losses by diseases.

BIOSCHAMP aims to develop a tailormade solution for the mushroom sector. A peat-free casing soil will serve as carrier for the selected microbiota that act as crop biostimulant. Peat is an unsustainable source on which the sector is highly dependent to produce the peat-based casing employed nowadays. This solution will be validated industrially by four different mushroom farms across the EU which integrate all the European cropping systems.

Agronomical performance and life cycle assessments

In the BIOSCHAMP project Wageningen Plant Research will evaluate various sustainable and circular alternatives to peat-based casing soil. This includes a study of the agronomical performance of these alternatives, together with their physico-chemical properties and microbial composition. The ability of these alternative substrates, and their microbiomes, to suppress common soil-borne and compost-borne bacterial and fungal pathogens of mushrooms will be explored deeply.

The potential of biostimulants will be investigated to improve mushroom yield and quality. Population dynamics of the biostimulants will be monitored by strain-specific molecular detection methods designed at WPR. The alternatives will also be screened for the presence of contaminants, such as heavy metals, microplastics and pesticide residues. Together with Wageningen Economic Research, life cycle assessments of these alternative substrates will be performed in order to evaluate their economic viability and sustainability for European mushroom growers.