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Japanese farmers using hammers to grow more mushrooms


By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24



TOKYO

In Japan, there’s an image of elegance, some might even say nobility, associated with farming. Maybe it’s because you don’t have to go all that far back in Japan’s history to find a time when the country was still overwhelmingly agrarian, or perhaps it’s a carryover from Shinto beliefs about the divinity present in nature.

Regardless of the reason, though, Japan’s popular image of farmers is of people who work in reverent harmony with nature, delivering the fruits of their respectful labor to the nation’s dinner tables. So it’s a little jarring to learn that in one part of Japan, farmers aren’t just delicately sifting the soil, but smacking things with hammers. This technique is spreading among growers of shiitake mushrooms in Oita Prefecture, on Japan’s southwest island of Kyushu. A unique aspect of shiitake it that they won’t grow on the ground. Instead, shiitake need a tree trunk in order to form (or “fruit,” to use the technical verb).

Shiitake growers can roughly predict when shiitake are going to start fruiting, and they’ve found that a simple and effective way to increase their yields is to spray the log with water about two weeks ahead of time, then grab a hammer and bang on the wood. Strange as it may sound, the technique has been a bit of folk wisdom for some time, and the Oita Prefectural Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Research Guidance Center recently confirmed that hammer time really does help lead to mushroom time.

Last month, the organization conducted an experiment, comparing the effects of hitting a log with a hammer versus leaving it un-smacked, and found that the wood that had been hammered subsequently produced more than twice as much shiitake (by weight). The center recommends farmers strike the log five times on one side, and then five more on the opposite side, adding that the most effective striking spot is on the bark of the log, away from its flat-cut edges.

Researchers aren’t sure why violence is the answer, except that subjecting the wood to vibrations somehow enhances shiitake formation on the log, and that hammering applies the necessary reverberations. The center hopes that greater adoption of the technique will lead to greater productivity for existing shiitake farmers and encourage newcomers to the profession, though it may or may not provide a plausible alibi during traffic stops.

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