Research Supervisor Connect

The influence of microbial interactions on mushroom production


Mushrooms are an economically important food source with an annual retail value in Australia of almost $700 million. Although edible fungi have been grown for many years, knowledge of the physical and chemical nature of the substrate and related microbial processes is still relatively limited. The project will use modern genetic technology to investigate the dynamics of the active microbial community during compost production and subsequent mushroom cultivation.


Associate Professor Michael Kertesz.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Traditionally, the two main components of mushroom compost are poultry manure and wheat straw, but the quality and availability of these components is increasingly uncertain. Changes to food sources used for poultry, especially from meat-based to grain-based diets, affect the levels of manure nitrogen available for mushroom growth, and wheat straw is often in short supply due to demand from other sectors. Mushroom growers have experimented in the past with alternative feedstocks, but because too little is known about the microbial processes taking place during compost production and subsequent mushroom cultivation, these experiments have often been costly and unsuccessful. The proposed Ph.D. project will examine the microbial processes occurring during compost production, aiming to identify the microorganisms that are key in converting raw materials and releasing the nutrients required for mushroom cultivation. It will then investigate the interactions of these organisms with the mushroom hyphae during growth, and how these stimulate yield and quality of the mushrooms themselves. The student will:

  • Characterize the microbial succession during the commercial composting process, using molecular fingerprinting and next generation sequencing technology;
  • Investigate a range of alternative feedstock substrates, correlating changes in microbial diversity with composting efficiency and mushroom yield, and designing appropriate microbial or enzymatic amendments to maximize these;
  • Investigate the role of key microbial species in mushroom hyphal growth, and in the initiation of mushroom fruiting bodies (pinning).

Additional information

  • This project would suit a student with interest in soil microbiology/microbial ecology, and some background in biochemistry and molecular genetics. Mushroom cultivation is done in our controlled environment facility dedicated to mushroom research, located on the Darlington campus. The composting experiments will be carried out in a full scale composting tunnel, in collaboration with a commercial composting facility. Potential applicants may be interested in reading the following: ·      
  • Kertesz M.A., Thai M. (2018) Compost bacteria and fungi that influence growth and development of Agaricus bisporus and other commercial mushrooms. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 102:1639-1650.
  • Australian Mushroom Growers Association,

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1511

Other opportunities with Associate Professor Michael Kertesz