The research continues: Mushroom science

People walk by every day without giving a second glance to the blue and white historical markers posted at various locations around Penn State’s main campus. The markers give a nod to the University’s past, but some also offer a peek into the University’s future.

Near the west entrance to Buckhout Lab, University Park, is the Mushroom Science marker. In the 1920s Penn State began a comprehensive program in mushroom science. Researchers in this program improved compost and developed practices that were adopted by growers worldwide.

Leon Kneebone, emeritus professor of botany and plant pathology, created the Mushroom Industry Short Course in 1956. The Kneebone Mushroom Reference Collection, housed in the Life Sciences Library, is a working library for today’s researchers. 

In the 1960s, Lee Shisler, emeritus professor of plant pathology and his grad student David Carroll Jr. patented a delayed-release mushroom nutrient that was licensed to Spawn Mate, a California company and is still widely used in the mushroom industry.

The research done here helped Pennsylvania retain leadership in mushroom production, and Kennett Square, Pa., to claim the title of “Mushroom Capital of the World.”

The research continues

Located across campus is Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences Mushroom Research Center, where work aims to reduce reliance on pesticides, increase crop yield, and make the process more sustainable. David Meigs Beyer, who holds the enviable title of Professor of Mushrooms, has expertise in the fields of mushroom cultivation, composting, mushroom nutrition and physiology, and pest management. Beyer shares his knowledge widely through Penn State Extension.

Researchers in the Penn State Mushroom Spawn Lab grow and test approximately 300 strains of commercial mushrooms, including white button, oyster, and shiitake varieties, and are in search of a way to mass-cultivate the elusive morel.

Mushroom Science Historical Marker
Mushroom Science Historical Marker

Members of the news media interested in mushroom research at Penn State should contact Matt Swayne at 814-865-5774 or

Leave a Reply