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The Great Morel Hunt: Mushroom explosion likely in the weeks ahead

Wet soil conditions and warmer temperatures will drive a spike in the mushroom population by mid-April.
Credit: iStock
Morel Mushrooms

We're already seeing new growth all around us as temperatures begin to warm and the grass begins to green. It won't be long before we'll also start seeing an explosion in the Morel Mushroom population, too. 

These often sought after mushrooms require specific growing conditions that are not easy to duplicate, which has turned the process of finding them into a sport that many enjoy today. While they may not appear to be very appetizing, they are considered a prized delicacy as they can transform into several different foods including wine sauce, pasta, and even soup! Farmer's markets across the country are often filled with morel mushrooms, and they often come with a premium price. 

On the weather side of this subject, there are two specific conditions that we want to keep track of when it comes to finding the great morel; the temperature of the air/soil, and the rainfall pattern.

Ideally, morel mushrooms prefer air temperatures of 60 degrees or warmer with soil temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees. While we've seen some cooler temperatures lately, those 60 and 70 degree days really start popping up in the next few weeks. Soil temperatures are quickly warming, too, right now standing at 46 degrees here in the Quad Cities. 

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Precipitation is another important factor. Our soils remain saturated thanks to plentiful snowfall and rainfall in the last several months. These saturated soils will work with warming temperatures to begin producing a nice population of mushrooms by mid-April, if not sooner. 

One thing you'll want to remember this year, with the current COVID-19 restrictions, including the closures of state parks, many sites where these mushrooms are often found are now off-limits. Make sure you are following state posted signs to avoid trespassing. 

Credit: thegreatmorel.com
Current morel mushroom sightings

According to thegreatmorel.com, morel sightings are already occurring in southern Illinois. This activity is expected to rapidly move northward in the next few weeks as temperatures continue to warm.

The precipitation outlook for April also favors above-normal precipitation, keeping the mushroom growing conditions going strong. 

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