The Himalayan tropical sub-forests cover a large portion of India, Bhutan, Nepal & Pakistan. These pine trees shed their leaves, covering large area of land within forests. When the temperature hovers between 28-30 degrees, the pine needles take hardly 3-4 hours to get completely dry. After drying out, these heaps of needles can easily catch fire. This is because the pine needles produce a lot of sap (aka rosin) which is highly inflammable. This causes natural forest fires.
However, there is another more sadder face to it: the practice of deliberate burning by the communities living in the vicinity of these forests. The controlled burning of pine forests ensures there is growth of grass during monsoon months that can be used as animal fodder. This controlled burning is done under the guidelines of the state forest departments. However, the villagers sometimes take this exercise upon themselves. They set the needles on fire, which gradually spreads beyond their control. Sometimes, the fires are started accidentally by visitors in the forest who smoke cigarette & discard the cigarette butts carelessly. It has been estimated that 90% of forest fires in India are man-made.
These fallen pine needles can be collected and used as a substrate for mushroom cultivation. In fact, mushrooms such as Oyster mushrooms can directly be grown directly on 100% pure pine needles, without any other ingredient!
Fresh pine needles are not an ideal substrate because pine oil is a natural fungicide. However, there are layers of needles on the forest floor. These fallen needles leach their oils into the ground. Thus, they can be used for mushroom cultivation.
At Himpicked, we grew Pink Oyster Mushroom on 1 kg pine needles. The first flush of mushrooms was harvested just 25 days after seeding!
Pink Oyster Mushrooms grown successfully on pure pine needles
A closeup of mushroom grow bag