Contact: José Antonio Bonet, Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia
Action Research in Catalonia: Exploring the enhancenment of business support for mushrooms enterprises through common learning process with policy makers and SMEs
Currently, the legal framework related to mushroom picking is undergoing changes in Catalonia. This poses challenges for enterprises dealing with mushrooms. They also need new tools and advice to be able to respond to the changes. In February 2015, a workshop was organised where policy makers discussed the matter.
Data from long-term monitoring plots is being used to identify factors that affect mushroom productivity and the impact of forest thinnings. The possibilities of designing a silvicultural schedule by maximising the joint production of timber and mushrooms is looked into.
Catalonia is located in the Northeastern edge of the Iberian Peninsula. 60% of its area is covered by forests (1,3 million hectares), of which 78% are privately owned, 14% belong to municipalities, 5% to the regional government and 3% to rural communities. Forest types range from coastal forests dominated by Aleppo pine, stone pine and cork oak forests, to the continental formations of Scots and black pine and other types of oaks, beech forests in some humid massifs, to the alpine-type of ecosystems in the Pyrenees.
The main challenge forests face here are wildfires, followed by damages caused by wind or snow storms, as well as pests. These forests have been managed traditionally promoting timber and fuel wood extraction, but in the last 40 years forest management has considerably decreased.
Nevertheless, timber is not the only relevant product from forests in Catalonia. Here there is a strong tradition in cork extraction and processing, collection of pine nuts, chestnuts, truffles and mushrooms although limited to specific areas and representing a minor percentage of the forest area in Catalonia. In summer specialised workers extract -without damaging the tree- the cork layer of these oaks every 14 years; cork annual extraction amounts to 1700 tonnes (MIMAM, 2011). 280 tones of pine nuts (MIMAM, 2011) are collected yearly by specialised workers during the wintertime. In that season truffles are also harvested using a trained dog, generally in Holm oak plantations, amounting to 4000 kg (MIMAM, 2011). Chestnuts are picked by the forest owner for commercial purposes, but in more recent years, recreationists also collect chestnuts for personal consumption. Mushrooms and their related gastronomy are rooted in the Catalan culture. The CERES (2008) establishes that in 2008, 30% of the Catalan population goes mushroom picking at least twice in the season, of which 500,000 people go more often. For 2010, 9000 tons of edible mushrooms were commercialised (MIMAM, 2011).