Ag Sciences graduate students receive mushroom science scholarships

University Park, Pa. -- Three graduate students in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences recently received scholarship awards totaling $25,000 from the American Mushroom Institute.

Stephanie Loehr, graduate student in plant pathology, Tongtong Xu, graduate student in food science, and Kimberly Paley, a mushroom research technician taking courses in agricultural and extension and education, each were awarded prizes from the James W. Sinden Scholarship Fund.

The fund was established in 1980 to honor the 50 years of service to the mushroom industry by James W. Sinden. A Penn State professor in the 1930s and 1940s, Sinden also conducted industry research for numerous regional mushroom-production companies. His innovations included introducing synthetic compost, grain spawn and short composting in narrow piles that could be mechanically turned.

Upon his retirement, the American Mushroom Institute established an annual scholarship in his name to be awarded competitively to students working in mushroom science.

David Beyer, a professor of plant pathology who conducts research and extension programs in mushroom technology and production, has advised several graduate students who have received Sinden scholarships. "The scholarship has provided students with funds they could use toward their research or to support themselves," he said. "It has been a powerful drawing card to help attract students to mushroom science."

Pennsylvania continues to be a leader in mushroom production worldwide. In 2007-08, the United States produced almost 800 million pounds of mushrooms, and roughly 65 percent of those -- about 500 million pounds -- were grown in the commonwealth. The value of the Pennsylvania mushroom crop is estimated to be $450 million. 

Approximately 90 percent of all mushroom production in Pennsylvania is centered in Chester and Berks counties. Mushroom farms in southeastern Pennsylvania employ more than 9,500 workers.


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Last Updated October 05, 2009