The following is adapted from Forest Products Laboratory 1910 – 2010 : Celebrating a Century of Accomplishments.
In the late 1970s, Forest Products Laboratory researcher, Gary Leatham, completed a doctoral thesis based on his research on growth of the Japanese Islands variety of Shiitake. Continuing his research at FPL, in 1982 he published “Cultivation of shiitake, the Japanese forest mushroom, on logs: a potential industry for the United States.”
This paper and a number of public seminars stirred a lot of interest and helped make commercial cultivation possible in the United States. It was also discovered that the edible Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) grow faster on shredded oak residue than on logs.
This finding was a spin-off of long-term basic research toward selective degradation of lignin for biopulping. By producing Shiitake, low-quality hardwoods can be converted directly to a high-value food.
Shiitake growing has since become a budding industry in the United States, creating jobs and utilizing wood that would otherwise be wasted.