The influence of microbial interactions on mushroom production


Mushrooms are an economically important food source with an annual retail value in Australia of almost $700 million. Although edible fungi have been grown for many years, knowledge of the physical and chemical nature of the substrate and related microbial processes is still relatively limited. The project will use modern genetic technology to investigate the dynamics of the active microbial community during compost production and subsequent mushroom cultivation.


Associate Professor Michael Kertesz

Research Location

Sydney Institute of Agriculture - Australian Technology Park

Program Type



Traditionally, the two main components of mushroom compost are poultry manure and wheat straw, but the quality and availability of these components is increasingly uncertain. Changes to food sources used for poultry, especially from meat-based to grain-based diets, affect the levels of manure nitrogen available for mushroom growth, and wheat straw is often in short supply due to demand from other sectors. Mushroom growers have experimented in the past with alternative feedstocks, but because too little is known about the microbial processes taking place during compost production and subsequent mushroom cultivation, these experiments have often been costly and unsuccessful. The proposed Ph.D. project will examine the microbial processes occurring during compost production, aiming to identify the microorganisms that are key in converting raw materials and releasing the nutrients required for mushroom cultivation. It will then investigate the interactions of these organisms with the mushroom hyphae during growth, and how these stimulate yield and quality of the mushrooms themselves. The student will:

  • Characterize the microbial succession during the commercial composting process, using molecular fingerprinting and next generation sequencing technology;
  • Investigate a range of alternative feedstock substrates, correlating changes in microbial diversity with composting efficiency and mushroom yield, and designing appropriate microbial or enzymatic amendments to maximize these;
  • Investigate the role of key microbial species in mushroom hyphal growth, and in the initiation of mushroom fruiting bodies (pinning).

Additional Information

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compost, microbial diversity, microbial community, gene expression, mushrooms, fungal-bacterial interactions, microbial ecology

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1511

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