Ken Haynes Travel Award Winner: Joy Clarke

Conference report for the Irish Fungal Society: International Society of Mushroom Science.

The Irish Fungal Society award two researchers each year with travel grants in memory of Professor Ken Haynes. This year we had a huge response to our call for applicants, and the first award was given to Ms Joy Clarke, a final year PhD student from Maynooth University. Joy travelled to the 20th International Society of Mushroom Science (ISMS) Congress in Nevada, Usa, and she provided the following report:

My name is Joy Clarke and I am a final year PhD student based at Maynooth University and funded by the Teagasc Walsh Scholarship programme. This year, I was delighted to be awarded with the Ken Haynes Travel award from the Irish Fungal Society. I used this award to travel to Nevada, USA to attend the 20th International Society of Mushroom Science (ISMS) congress which was combined with the 26th North American Mushroom Conference (NAMC). Firstly I would like to thank the panel of accessors from the IFS for giving me the opportunity to attend this event

The ISMS congress brings together researchers from all over the world to share updates on their research into science related to mushrooms, mushroom products, and the uses of mushrooms. The congress included sessions on substrate and casing, genetics and breeding, and pest and disease.

Casing soil is an essential element of mushroom cultivation. There was a big focus on alternative casing materials during the first session. Currently peat is used as a core ingredient for casing soil, but the industry is facing a crisis as many countries are limiting the use of peat in agriculture. Researchers are trying to find suitable, sustainable alternatives that can be used instead of peat which won’t drastically affect the production value. Some alternatives being investigated include bark, wood fiber, coir, and paper waste products. This session also included talks on ways to supplement substrate to enhance mushroom quality and yield.

The pest and disease session had several talks which looked at the treatment of fungal diseases effecting the mushroom industry including green mold disease, cobweb disease, and dry bubble disease. The session really focused on sustainable alternatives to treat these diseases using biocontrol and biorationals rather than traditional chemical fungicides. Another issue the industry is facing is a drastic reduction in the number of approved f


ungicides due to toxicity and resistance. I was delighted to be able to give an oral presentation during this session on my work looking at the treatment of cobweb disease with biocontrol treatments.

The ISMS also had several keynote talks, one of these was delivered by a former Maynooth University PhD student and IFS member, Dr Eoin O’Connor. After finishing his PhD Eoin continued working with mushrooms and took up a post-doc position in Penn State University. He gave an excellent talk on his research looking at profiling the composition and function of casing devome. It was great to be able to catch up with Eoin in person and learn all about his journey since leaving Maynooth.

There were plenty of social events organised as part of the conference which gave me the opportunity to network and establish key contacts with scientific researchers working in the mushroom sector. Overall, I found it was an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience attending the 20th ISMS congress. I am very grateful that I was able to attend this event and it would not have been possible without the funding kindly provided by the IFS.