GROWING MUSHROOMS IS SMART, SUSTAINABLE AND PROFITABLE!
Do you plan to grow mushrooms? There are many good reasons to begin this hobby or activity: if desired, mushrooms are a good, profitable and economically attractive commercial crop. In addition, they are easy to grow even at an amateur level and finally they have important nutritional values. Some species, if that weren’t enough, also carry important medicinal properties.
The period between inoculation and harvest can be very short, just three weeks. After the cultivation, the support can still be reused to improve soil characteristic or for composting.
The processes involved in the growth of the fungus are unknown to most people. Mushroom cultivation is very different from growing plants in the garden, the processes are completely different, but, at the same time, once you learn the different basic concepts, nothing can stop you.
Learning how to grow mushrooms may seem complicated for those just starting out, but wasn’t learning to ride a bike when we were kids too?
There are several techniques to learn and some specific equipment to buy, but nothing particularly complex nor expensive. In any case it shouldn’t be a barrier for those approaching this sector. An inexperienced person can approach mushroom cultivation at hobbyist level without investing heavily in equipment or expensive courses.
To grow mushrooms, the grower does not necessarily have to master all the advanced techniques, but simply know the right technique for the type of mushroom one wishes to grow. By giving yourself the right time to learn and experiment, it will not be difficult to master this ancient art, the cultivation of the mycelium.
One of the trickiest parts of growing is learning how to make your own “spawn“. The spawn consists in cereal grains or sawdust inoculated with the mycelium of the fungus you want to grow. It’s this “seed” that you will use to “sow” your substrate.Mojo Pro – Blue Oyster Mushroom Kit – Ready to Fruit Pleurotus Oystreatus Growing Kit
You will need a pressure cooker or autoclave, a supply of grains, a sterile environment, and a basic mushroom culture to transfer your culture to sterilized grains. For beginners there are kits available where the seed has already been inoculated and ready to bear fruit under the right conditions.
Cultivation using a Petri dish as a culture medium:
This step involves the introduction of spores, a portion of an existing culture or a section of a mushroom chosen to clone, using a sort of nourishing gelatin.
Processing must be carried out in a clean environment in order to prevent possible contamination. The safest and most professional system is to use a horizontal laminar flow hood where a centrifugal fan pushes air through HEPA filters, guaranteeing sterile conditions in the working area.
Since particles and microbes are present in the air that could contaminate the Petri dishes we intend to inoculate with the mycelium, these systems allow a flow of filtered and sanitized air to circulate continuously over the work area, protecting it.
Otherwise a “glove box” is a cheaper alternative, especially for hobbyists and novice growers. They consist of plastic containers inside which exposure to contamination can be worked out considerably by handling Petri dishes and mycelium. Two holes are made to these containers to pass the hands, often silicone gloves are attached to them and act act as a barrier. Alternatively, the operator can wear their own sterilized gloves to try to work in a sterile environment free of drafts.
Petri dishes can also be successfully inoculated using a simple sterilized plastic container, a pair of gloves and a few precautions. The risk of contamination is greater than using laminar flow, but acceptable results can still be pursued.
The inoculation of a new culture and all the steps in which the mycelium has not yet developed in the growing medium, are the most delicate phases. Having specific equipment surely facilitates success, having knowledge and following good hygiene practices facilitates it even more.
Transfer the mycelium to sterilized grains:
This step must also be performed in a sanitized environment to avoid contamination. Simply remove a small piece of the nutritious gelatin from a Petri dish containing your mushroom mycelium, and transfer it to a jar containing the sterilized cereals.
It is also possible to use a syringe with a liquid culture, which is nothing more than a liquid containing the spores that can be inoculated in the same jars containing the sterilized cereals. The fungus will colonize all the grains after a few days or weeks, and will quickly expand inside the jar.
Multiply the mycelium exponentially:
Pieces of already colonized grains can be used to inoculate several other jars containing sterile grains, exponentially, increasing the production of the same. A jar with colonized grains can inoculate another 10 or more jars containing sterile grains.
The magic of mushroom cultivation is the mushroom’s ability to grow its mass exponentially, reaching thousands of times its original mass. For example, a portion as large as 5 cents of culture medium can colonize a 1 liter pot of sterilized cereal. A 1 liter jar of colonized cereals can be used to colonize more than 10 bags containing sterilized cereals. These 10 can be used to colonize another 100, and so on!
This is what mushroom cultivation is about, this is the “secret”: exponentially multiply the biomass of the mushroom through various techniques to get to the final result, the mushroom fruit.
Inoculation of the grains in the final substrate:
Once enough spawn is obtained, the grains are used to inoculate the final substrate, where the fungi will grow. The type of substrate depends on the species of mushroom you will be growing. Most of the substrates consist of straw, sawdust, manure, supplemented with bran and rye. Depending on the variety of mushroom and the substrate used, it may need to be pasteurized or sterilized before being used.
Once the substrate has been inoculated, the colonization phase begins. The fungus will grow and expand throughout the substrate in search of nutrients. When the mycelium has colonized the entire substrate, it will be ready to start producing the mushrooms, then fruiting.
Induction of fruiting:
In order for the fungi to start appearing, it’s necessary to modify some parameters in the cultivation, placing the colonized substrate blocks (cake) in the fruiting environment. This environment with specific conditions in terms of temperature, humidity, and light will encourage the growth of fungi.
These parameters also vary according to the cultivated species. The optimal colonization temperature of most edible mushrooms is between 18 and 26 °C (64-78°F). Once colonized, the substrate is placed in the appropriate fruiting environment. The change of conditions, therefore temperature and humidity, are fundamental for some species; without it, the substrate will not start producing any mushroom.
Growth and mushroom picking:
After exposing the colonized substrate to the fruiting environment, the fruiting bodies will finally begin to develop by rapidly draining moisture and nutrients from the substrate as they develop. Then will be time to harvest them and, again depending on the species, the substrate can be irrigated to allow new fruiting cycles. Some species allow multiple collections for each colonized block of substrate.
This was a general overview of the mushroom growing cycle. In the next articles we will deepen into every single step and everything will be much clearer. Our intention is to clarify as fully as possible the various steps concerning the cultivation and production of edible mushrooms, so that anyone who reads our articles can have a good base and be able to approach this fantastic world.
The methods illustrated for growing mushrooms are just a few among dozens of different techniques. Each producer has their own cultivation techniques and processes, none of which are better or worse. Each technique is adapted to the reality of each manufacturer, but basically, all follow the pattern described above.