It was a year of many ups and downs, not least on the oil market. 2014 was chock full of events and much mushrooming news.
Swizzing into January there was a nifty wee poem by Emily Dickinson to start the year off, and news of help to get Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) application forms completed and entered in the UK. There was photo of growers Anthony and Declan McKeever receiving an award from the Farming Life, and also coverage of Monaghan Mushrooms winning an exporter of the year award. Polish Mushroom consultant Nikodem Sakson contributed an article on the fundamentals of mushroom feeding and farming technology developments. In notes there was as ever very little to report at the beginning of the year. Irish food and drink exports had surpassed the €10 billion mark and there was some new info emanating from Ukraine via the UMDIS website.
Feeding into February, there was more news on Monaghan Mushrooms, with the creation of 20 new jobs for graduates according to their website. Also there were the first rumblings of discontent amongst shareholders at the company, a story that would resolve later in the year. Light was a theme in Feb with a piece on UV light for enhancing Vitamin D in mushrooms and also solar panels by MaxiSolar being employed down under at SJW Mushrooms. Centra were using some poetical language to help market their shrooms in the New Year. The big news, that turned out to be non-news, was the finding of a mushroom growing on Mars. Maybe the jury is still out on that one! In notes Nutrigain men were spotted in Ireland, Quorn was on the menu, and a big move by Mush Comb made the column. Also the AFBI hosted an EU MushTV meeting in Armagh.
March rushed in, in uplifting mood, with jobs created and a £4 million investment at JFM. And to further enhance the mood, news of mushroom infused cocktails in Dallas apparently setting a trend, sent out an upbeat feel to the month. The EU was providing €4 billion in funding via the Horizon 2020 programme for agriculture, food, forestry, biotech and fisheries. BASF Agricultural Specialties were promoting pest solutions and Frank Parker of Nutrigain was providing the science piece with a look at Casing. An upcoming BBC 4 programme featuring Professor Richard Fortey was highlighted – a real treat for any mycophiles. Making the notes were a beautifully colourful mushroom print twill shirt by Paul Smith, FCM’s got a mention, Mary Berry was cooking with fresh mushrooms and the word was that oil prices were climbing and set to rocket ever higher as the turmoil in Ukraine took hold.
Heading into April the technical item in this month’s edition was on Mushroom Growing Hygiene by Nutrigain’s Frank Parker. There were rumblings of discontent down under with Costa calling for horticulture levy reform. Banken Champignons got a big mention, and the mushroom blendability in the US got its first mention of the year. AN EU funded project on heart health called Bacchus was also featured. In notes, the first photo of the new Mush Comb HQ was featured. Straw was pretty scarce according to compost sources. Other diverse news included a lamp made out of mushroom mycelium, the news that mushrooms may help protect against gout, and a death cap mushroom storyline in the Aussie soap Home and Away.
Nematodes were the topic of the month in May with an article by Michael Barth of E-Nema the German nematodes specialists. There was news on the €4 billion rural development programme to run in Ireland from 2014 to 2020. In notes, there was an example of mycrogranules being applied to a bulk load at Western Casing. Scully explained how fresh their nematodes are. The top 1000 Irish companies contained as ever a few mushroom entities. There were Antarctic mushrooms and Chinese mushroom days, as well as open farm days upcoming and Balmoral too.
Jumping to June, the optics were from Orchard Mushrooms near Lurgan which opened its premises to the public for the Open Farm Weekend event. News that Ireland has the 5th most innovative agri-food sector in the EU emanated from a report by UCD researchers. The first welcome to the ISMS event in 2016 was featured; this event is now set to incorporate the Dutch Mushroom Days too. Westlife’s Nicky Byrne was pressed into action on behalf of the “Just add mushrooms” campaign. North Korea was making headlines around the world with a new mushroom sports drink. The mushroom flavour umami was explicated by one item on making it the flavour to savour. There were some photos of honeymooners Stuart Whitehall and his wife Rebecca in Boulder, Colorado.
July duly arrived with an item on how mushrooms can help you lose weight – as usual all claims for medicinal benefits and weight loss abilities must be thoroughly evaluated before being taken on board as true. There was a new species of mushroom found in a store bought pack of dried Chinese porcini. German mushroom production was apparently up by 13%. There was news from the Mush TV project with photos from trip to the Kania plant in Lublin province, Poland. A new line in Cold Max vacuum cooling machines being offered by AST Totten was explained in an article. Noteworthy items included talk of a new spawn strain being introduced into Europe by Amycel, a new mushroom museum opened in The Netherlands, a grower from Australia interested in robotic picking, hopes for a good straw harvest, and the wedding of Francisco Arqueros in Belfast’s City Hall.
Into August, there was some more poetry to kick off the month, and an article on Tracking Demand by Nutrigain. The group of European Champignon Producers which was established in 1979 was the subject of an article. There was an interesting item from Canada, on Highline Mushrooms and Cennatek in Ontaria, collaborating on a process to convert SMC into liquid mineral fertilizer and other value-added products. Notes included the word from inside successful PO’s that the Irish mushroom industry was currently “flying”. Viscon Group got a mention, as did Bannister Transport, there was news of cuts at Kew and that “the internet broke “in August – they fixed it again pretty quickly – phew!
In September there was news of the upcoming first Ukrainian mushroom conference to take place in November. Hungarian mushroom production was on the up, and set to double by 2020 according to reports. The Australian giant Costa was calling for levy reform in the ongoing row down under. Health-wise, the enhancement of immune function by mushrooms got a mention as did the mechanism whereby mushrooms help control blood glucose levels. A science item on why mushrooms turn brown reminded Stalker of biology classes at school, and projects such as the browning of apple tissue – always a favourite! And news of a potentially new branch of life found at sea, off the Aussie coastline, was of a distinctly mushroom type. As one researcher said –“we think it belongs in the animal kingdom somewhere, the question is where.” US demand for mushrooms continued to grow with production topping $1 billion for the fourth year in a row. The Walsh operation in Evesham was also in expansion mode with a new store, packing and distribution warehouse to be built. In notes, a new mushroom advisor at Teagasc, Dermot Callaghan got a mention, a change of running the mushroom panel at the HDC was noted, and the growing of mushrooms in diapers in Mexico deserved the mention. It was also Mushroom Month in the US, and there were new species of mushrooms found in the Highlands of Scotland.
October was full of warnings from relevant public bodies on the dangers of wild mushroom picking. The FSAI in Ireland and the PHE in England both exhorted the public to be very wary of foraging during the mushroom season. Monaghan Mushrooms were hitting the headlines with the supply of “revolutionary” vitamin D mushrooms to M&S. It was reported to be the first instance of this type of mushroom being produced for the European market. There was a warning of Irish agri-food firms feeling their business was being threatened by new EU labelling rules coming into force at the end of the year. No doubt there’ll be more on that story in 2015, as we see the effect of the new regulations. There was an item on how to forage safely during the wild mushroom season, by Geoff Dann, a mushroom foraging instructor. National mushroom day was marked with an article about mushrooms being a superfood which we all know to be the case! The month was dominated by news of the cuts coming down the line which will affect all aspects of agriculture in the North especially. AFBI facing drastic cuts to its budget was the top note, with the damage being done to the scientific underpinning of the agri-food sector; this theme is set to dominate even in 2015 and beyond.
Nudging towards the end of the year, the November issue highlighted the dangers of hydrogen sulphide gas in mushroom compost. The Teagasc science team had recommendations too for safety in reducing emissions of and minimising the exposure to the deadly gas. Farm disinfectants were also a major theme in the issue. The effect of magic mushrooms on the brain was also examined, with new research casting light on the ordering of neuronal connections by the active ingredient in the mushrooms. In notes there was news of some top notch Irish rugby players, and also news of the potentially massive quantitative easing that the EU might undertake in case of deflation taking hold in the Euro zone. Seems like that program of QE is about to start! An agri-food fund in the North got a mention, as did the fact that “bird flu” was back on the radar, and a new antibiotic find on dung mushrooms prompted Stalker to reminisce.
December descended rapidly, with news and photos from the first ever Ukrainian mushroom conference. In Ireland minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney was announcing a new 10 year plan for the agri-food sector, a strategy to take the sector up to 2025. In the UK there was news that sales of British mushrooms had increased, reasons given included the horsemeat scandal and awareness of the environmental impact of imports. A working group to better protect button mushroom varieties was formed consisting of representatives of European spawn producers. There was news also of toxic fungi potentially holding the secret to tackling deadly diseases. Frank Parker contributed a piece on cooking out, with tips on how it can be best achieved.
Note news included more on the damage cuts might bring in the future, the ongoing slump in the price of oil was noted, and a bit of whether or not superfoods exist at all. A Bulgarian outfit promoting optimal mushrooms also got a mention, as elsewhere did the African ping pong fungus and the cost a minority share in Monaghan Mushrooms would set you back.
All in the year was as varied as ever, with plenty of news and views from around the globe on the ever changing face of the mushroom industry. No doubt this year will also bring a lot more ups and downs and intrigues for the industry both locally and globally – roll on 2015!