If you are considering mushroom farming, you must consider a few factors to yield great results. The main elements are; the substrate, temperature, gas exchange, water, and mushroom species.
You also need to know that mushrooms are classified into three types;
· Primary decomposer- this type of decomposer is grown on all types of substrates
· Secondary decomposer- it thrives on an already decomposed substrate
· Tertiary decomposer- it grows on the remains of the secondary decomposer
To grow monster mushrooms, you need to pay attention to your substrate choice and the decomposer class your mushroom species falls under. It would be best to grow the right type of mushroom on the right type of substrate to yield a good harvest.
What do mushrooms like to eat?
Like any other living organism, mushrooms too need to eat to grow. The concept is different when it comes to mushrooms. The difference is because mushrooms lack chlorophyll, which is the green color on plants. Lacking the green color means they cannot undergo photosynthesis and are therefore considered saprophytes. This saprophytic group obtains nutrients by breaking down non-living matter. From the non-living matter, mushrooms like to eat cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose.
Mushrooms store all the required nutrients in the body till the material is enough, and the conditions are favorable for fruiting. The visible part of the mushroom is the fruit. The body of the mushroom is known as mycelium. It is covered by wood chippings or soil, depending on where you are growing your mushrooms.
For mushrooms to grow, they require warmth, moisture, and humidity. When growing mushrooms, you will need substrates and the right climatic conditions. A mushroom substrate is a substance on which mycelium grows. There is a variety of materials the grower can choose as their substrate. Substrates can be straw, logs, hardwood sawdust, and wood chipping.
The substrate is prepared for inoculation’ by adding water and nutrients. For the substrate to be ready, it has to undergo sterilization or pasteurization. The mycelium is mixed with the substrate, and when the climatic conditions are right, fruiting will occur.
What are the Best kinds of substrates?
There are several substrates to choose from when growing mushrooms. Different substrates work best with varying species of mushrooms. Some of the best substrates you can use are;
· Logs-get your mushroom spawn and hardwood logs needed for planting. Drill holes onto the wood logs or cut them into the required specification. Fill up the gaps with the mushroom spawn and seal with wax. The logs are then set to stay moist under shade. Water is essential to facilitate growth. Wait for the mycelium to colonize the substrate, and when enough nutrient material is stored, fruiting begins. For inoculation,’ the range diameter is between 4 and 8 inches.
· Staw-straw can be used as a mushroom substrate too. One of the many advantages of straw is works with different species of mushrooms. Cereals of rye, wheat, or oats are the most common substrate used by mushroom farmers because they are cheap and easy to acquire. The straw needs to be prepared and sterilized before being input with the mycelium. The straw also needs to be prepared to ensure no microorganisms are present to avoid them competing with the mycelium for nutrients. Best to grow oyster mushrooms.
· Enriched sawdust- the best kind of sawdust is from hardwood. Hardwood trees like oat, cherry, beech, and maple are some of the common choices. Keep in mind that sawdust lacks the nutrients, so you have to add nitrogen supplements like bran. To ensure the soil is suitable for mushroom growth, it is by sterilization. The best way is by autoclaving to ensure the removal of all organisms that will compete for nutrients with the mycelium.
· Other substrates- the different choices include; soy hull, coco coir and vermiculite, manure, coffee ground material, tea leaves, shells, banana leaves, compost, and corncobs to mention but a few.
How to Make the Best Mushroom Substrates?
If you are using the mushroom growing kit, then you don’t need to use substrates as it has all the material required. The best substrates contain specific nutrients encouraging mushroom growth. The best substrate must have the following;
· Nitrogen about 0.2%- 0.4%
· Minerals like; potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium
· A ph level of 4-7
· Water content of 50%- 70%
To make the best hardwood sawdust substrate, you require 5 cups of hardwood choppings, a liter of water, and one and a quarter cups of oats or barn. This mixture is sterilized in a pressure cooker by heating. This type of substrate recipe is useful for growing any mushroom species.
The other technique you can follow to make the best mushroom substrate is PF- Tec technique. The substrates require a 250ml mason jar in which you put 1/6 cup of brown rice flour, half a cup of vermiculite, and 60ml water. The mixture in the jars is heated in a pressure cooker for about 45 minutes.
The PF-Tek technique is useful when growing small mushrooms as the giant mushrooms will tend to grow smaller.
How to pasteurize and sterilize your substrates
All the material used as substrates should be pasteurized or sterilized before it is inoculated with the mycelium. Sterilization is an important step the farmer or mushroom grower should not ignore. The process will lead to the removal or killing of the other organisms that will compete for nutrients with the mushrooms. The mushroom culture to grow healthy and giant mushrooms is that the mycelium should be able to maximize the nutrients for fruiting to take place.
Pasteurizing will require you to heat the substrate at 150-1850F in a pressure cooker, steam, or a hot water bath. Pasteurization will kill the present contaminants and allow healthy mushroom culture. Soaking and steaming will introduce water into the straw requiring no watering afterward. When it is cool, it can be inoculated’ with additional nutrients and mushroom culture.
Sterilization is by exposing the substrate to temperatures above 2500F. The method should is used when using the material with higher nutrient value. It takes about two to two and a half hours. When the substrate is cold and ready, then under sterile conditions, it is inoculated’ until the mycelium show signs of fruiting.
What substrates produce the biggest yields of mushrooms
Different mushroom species grow and yield different results depending on the substrate used. To determine whether the mushroom substrate is useful, you look at the biological efficiency. Biological efficiency= weight of harvest/ weight of dry substrate multiplied by 100%.
On a straw substrate, mushrooms’ best choice would be; Blue Oysters, Yellow Oysters, Pink Oysters, and Pearl Oysters.
On sawdust, the substrate is best to grow Reishi, Lions Mane, Shiitake, and King Oysters.
Most substrates used by mushroom growers have some similarity in the components;
· Wood or straw is the main compound
· Supplements like wheat bran
When making the substrate recipe, you must consider;
· Biological efficiency
· Mycelium running rate
· Number of initiation days
· Number of harvest days
· Biological and economic yield
· Thickness of pileus
· Length of the stripe
How is Bulking a Substrate Done?
Before diving into knowing how bulking a substrate is done, let’s first understand what it is. A bulk substrate is a greater volume of a mild nutritious supplement for the mass cultivation of mushrooms. The bulk substates are pasteurized then mixed with spawn. The purpose of mixing it with spawn is to inoculate the substrate.
Examples of bulk substrates are;
· Coconut coir- it usually is mixed with vermiculite the sterilized before inoculation with spawn. It is a natural fiber from coconut husks that holds more water and decomposes slowly.
· Manure from cows or horses.
· Straw- from wheat or rye
· Vermicompost- from decomposed vegetables or food products broken down by earthworms contain more nutrients and fewer contaminants.
· Sublicious farms bulk substrate- this is a special type as it has different bulk substrate forms in one. It can contain manure, coconut coir, and straw. The components are then pasteurized to kill the contaminants. Consider this type of bulk substrate when planting dung loving mushrooms.
· The master mix- this is inclusive of a 50/50 percent of sawdust and soy hulls. The mixture is then sterilized for two and a half hours. It is significant for growing oyster mushrooms.
What are the best conditions for mushroom fruiting
The best conditions for fruiting are;
· Light- the source of light can be in direct sunlight or artificial use of LED bulbs. The source of light should not influence the temperature of the growing room. Studies show that the mycelium requires 1-2 hours of light per day. Prevent light from reaching the bottom at about three inches to avoid stunting of the fruiting stage. If the light is not blocked, it will affect the yield. When using indirect sunlight, ensure that the jars are rotated for even sunlight distribution as fruiting relies on sunlight. Farmers using artificial light use a timer to simulate 12 hours of the day and 12 hours for the night.
· Fresh gas exchange – free flow of air should be allowed to promote cell growth; when there is no free flow of air, the mushroom cell choke and wilt. Low levels of carbon dioxide promote fruiting. Some contaminants grow in the presence of carbon dioxide like bacterial and molds. Depending on the fruiting chamber, various ways can be used to ensure the free flow of air. Holes can be drilled to the side, and other farmers use a fish tank air pump to allow free air exchange.
· Humidity – the humidity must be high to encourage the fruiting of the mycelium. Different techniques can be applied to maintain humidity. The grower can use a hygrometer to measure the amount of moisture is in the air. Experienced growers don’t use a hygrometer; they check on the condensation of water near the fruiting chamber. The mycelium can maintain a specific humidity or create its own.
· Moisture – moisture is a necessary component as the mushroom cell expands with water intake. If the water is too much, the mycelium will suffocate, and if it’s too little, the mycelium will dry and die.
· Misting – this is the use of a spray bottle to maintain the humidity. The mycelium of the fruits are not sprayed directly with water. The water is sprayed into the air, and the mycelium will absorb it as humidity.
· Perlite – to maintain free humidity during fruiting use of high surface area material like perlite and geolite is common. The materials are saturated with water and placed in the fruiting chamber to evaporate and increase humidity.
· Temperature – the best temperature range for fruiting is between 22-270C. During fruiting, the mycelium generates less heat.
· Cleanliness – maintain a high level of cleanliness to avoid contamination of the mycelium. Wipeout molding with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol spray. Periodically examine the fungus to note any signs of contamination
To increase the success rate of fruiting, there are several factors you should consider;
· Learn how to identify early signs of contamination. Remove the contamination and ensure sterilization to avoid further contamination
· Ensure the substrate has the correct moisture content. It should be moist enough to release a few drops of water when squeezed
· Label your jars to prevent confusion
· Don’t experiment; instead, follow the technique that yields results.
· Monitor the temperatures and ensure the jar temperatures are not above room temperature.
What temperature does mycelium grow best in?
For a farmer to grow good mushrooms, the mycelium should be under the right temperatures. The acceptable range is between 75-800F, which is 24-270C. Higher temperatures will destroy the mycelium because and favor the growth of contaminants. The higher temperature will lead to loss of moisture, which is necessary for cell enlargement. Lower temperature causes the slow growth of mushrooms. If the low temperatures brought about by too much water causes the death of the mycelium. The water leads to more insufficient airflow causing the mushroom cell to choke to death.
As the mycelium grows and stores nutrients, it produces a lot of heat. This heat is released into the substrate and kills the cells if there is a build-up. If you are growing your mushrooms indoors inside jars, ensure the jar temperatures are not above the room temperatures. To accelerate sprouting of the mushrooms maintains the temperatures. The use of techniques like heat bomb incubator and the tub-in-tub incubator helps the growers using rooms incubating below the required range.
How not to kill your mycelium
To grow the best monster mushroom, you must ensure the mycelium exposure to the required conditions. Mycelium growth needs the right temperatures, light, water, and gas exchange. If one of the above factors is in plenty or scarce, it will lead to the mycelium’s death. Control the substrate water levels as too much will suffocate the mycelium, while too little will lead to drying.
The mycelium is present in the soil or on whatever material you plant it on throughout the year. It grows and dies, depending on the climatic factors. The mycelium acts as the roots, so it needs to be protected to ensure mushroom reproduction. It grows when the conditions and enzymes essential for growth are present. It digests and stores up the nutrients necessary for fruiting.
However, the mushroom mycelium does not only grow to ensure continuity of the species but benefits the ecosystem as well. To not kill or destroy the mycelium, here are a few errors to avoid;
· Not following the pasteurization and sterilization procedure
· Being impatient
· Not having the correct gear
· Not using aseptic solutions- use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol spray. The spray has 70% alcohol content.
· Not using the proper mushroom cultivation equipment
· Not sterilizing your tools before use
· Using the substrate before completely cooling
How long can you expect your mycelium to live?
After reusing your mycelium for several yields with a new substrate, it eventually undergoes senescence. Senescence is the old age for mushrooms as they stop reproducing. The mycelium has no strength to store the nutrients needed for growth and cell division.
The optimal growth time of the mycelium is 16-19 days. The duration is dependent on the duration of colonization of the substrate by mycelium. Colonization is required for the mushroom to obtain the essential nutrients for fruiting to occur. The time mycelium lives is dependent on the season, substrate used, sterility, and type of compost.
The harvesting of mushrooms occurs in flushes;
· 1st flush- these are picked within 3-5 days
· 2nd flush-are on the 5-7 days and yield less than the first harvest
· 3rd flush- yields 10-15% of the products are is of lower quality
The hand-picked mushrooms are harvested and stored for consumption. The mechanically harvested ones are processed and preserved. When you notice your mycelium yields a low harvest, it is time to change and inoculate with a fresh batch.
How long can a mushroom substrate last?
Depending on the substrate of your choice, they are roughly suitable for six months. For the substrate to last long, it should not be kept open or exposed to external air. It should be exposed to room temperature without it being colonized by mold and bacteria.
You can store it in the refrigerator for thirty days and reuse for better results with the substrate.
How many times can I reuse a mushroom substrate?
The thing with mushroom cultivation is that it leaves about six times more of the by-product amount than the harvest. This is often seen as a problem but can be used to our advantage. You will not need to replant the mycelium as the ones left on the substrate will fruit when exposed to the right conditions.
In mushroom cultivation, the substrate has proven to yield 100% produce even after the first harvest. The substrate is reusable for as long as it still delivers a good percentage of the original product.
After about 4-5 months, full disinfection should be done or replace the original substrate with a new one, which will repeat the same cycle.
What can I do with mushroom plugs and substrates when spent?
With several harvests of mushrooms, you will notice that the substrate will build up fast. It is advisable to have a way out on how to deal with the plugs and substrate spent. Some of the ideas include;
· In your vegetable garden as soil fertilizer
· Can be used as food for animals like fish
· It’s a renewable energy source
· Bioremediation- air, water, pesticides, and soil
· Crop production- can be reused in greenhouses, field crops, and nurseries
· Can be reused in mushroom cultivation
· Pest management
You can decide to compost the spent substrate, and with time, you will notice mushrooms will begin to sprout from the compost.
How to enjoy the process
To enjoy the process of mushroom cultivation, you have to yield good results. Having a fruitful harvest means you have followed to the letter the instructions necessary. The growing of mushrooms demands certain conditions like humidity, moisture, light, and temperatures. Each of the condition plays a crucial role in the growth of mushrooms.
It is possible to have fun as watching the process of mushroom growth and monitoring it closely is interesting. To grow mushrooms, you need to have the correct gear when taking care of the mycelium to avoid contamination.
To know what works best for your mushroom experiment with;
· Supplements- know the kind of supplements that yield healthy mushrooms.
· Substrate- find out what thrives best and on what substrate. Switch it up several times to make better observations.
· Sterilization procedure- ensure to sterilize the substrate, the gear, and tools used in mushroom cultivation. If sterility is not observed, the mycelium will die due to the introduction of contaminants. The contaminants will compete for nutrients and will eventually surpass the mycelium.
· Climatic conditions- observe the temperature, humidity, moisture, water, and light. These factors influence the growth of mushrooms.
The substrate’s standard choice is rye or wheat, but other substances like coffee, manure, coco coir, and straw can be used. The best kind of substrate is free from contaminants. As long as your mycelium is not competing for nutrients with other organisms, growth is steady and fruitful yields.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as that is the right way of learning. Regularly follow the procedure that yields you the best results. Avoid unnecessary mistakes that will save you time, money, and frustration. As a beginner, you are prone to making errors and yielding frustrating results, but you will get better at mushroom cultivation with time.