Cochran hopes the research grants will be renewed so WVSU can continue its work "for three years, hopefully. On the mushroom side, numbers that came out last year showed a 4 million-pound discrepancy between what is demanded and what is produced in West Virginia."
Cochran said the Department of Agriculture hopes to increase mushroom production for local use.
"We are creating places for folks to go to see what we are taking about in terms of commercial mushroom production. We're hoping anybody and everybody will take advantage of it. It can be as big, or as small, a project as you want it to be.
"A family could grow shiitake mushrooms on two or three logs under the deck of their back porch. A farm could grow shiitake mushrooms on hundreds of logs," Cochran said. "Right now, we don't have a lot of data and information to throw out there yet. These two grants will help us get a lot more information."
The WVSU grants will focus on growing hops and mushrooms in the central and southern counties of West Virginia.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded $240,000 in specialty agriculture grants in West Virginia this year.
Previous awards to WVSU funded continuing projects about increasing small fruit production and implementing season-extending techniques with high-tunnel growing systems.
Helmick said the USDA has funded 157 research projects in recent years with $1,436,240 in grants.
"We are sure West Virginia State will do an excellent job of researching, looking at the ups and downs. We feel good about that.
"WVSU will study mushrooms in rural and urban settings. They will set up a databank on the different species," Helmick said. "Hopefully, we will generate more money from growing mushrooms. We have a significant opportunity."
In the past, Helmick said, specialty crop block grants have focused on growing and producing fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops, honey and maple syrup.
"We want West Virginians to grow a product on West Virginia land for West Virginians to consume."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.