Understanding Mushroom Substrates
Growing mushrooms is unlike growing plants. It even requires more care than you know the perfect mushroom substrate to grow. It would help if you got the process right to have the abundance of growth you desire.
WHAT IS A MUSHROOM SUBSTRATE?
A substrate is a space that provides energy and nutrition for the mushroom mycelium to survive. An excellent substrate for mushrooms to grow and fruit.
Common examples of substrate for growing mushrooms are straw, hardwood sawdust, soy hulls, manure, coco coir, vermiculite, urban and agricultural waste products like coffee grounds, banana leaves, etc.
To prepare a mushroom substrate for inoculation, you must appropriately follow the due process, such as adding water, additional nutrition, then sterilization or pasteurization. The substrate is broken into pieces which are grain spawn. If done well, the colonization process begins.
PASTEURIZING OR STERILIZING THE SUBSTRATE
You will need to pasteurize or sterilize your substrate to prevent contamination from entering your substrate. This is because typical mushroom substrates are moist and full of nutrition. Many molds and bacteria find their way to substrate to colonize them. It would be best to do all you can to prevent that, such as sterilization or pasteurization.
It is the process of subjecting your substrate to heat between 150 – 185 °F for 90 minutes to two hours using a hot water bath to eradicate contaminants as much as possible.
This involves killing any living contaminants by putting your substrate under extreme temperatures above 250 °F.
WATER IN THE SUBSTRATE
The mushroom needs water but not too much water to get the result you want. Water is best added before the inoculation, that is, during the preparation and not during the process. And if your substrate is too dry, growth will be slow because colonization will not be easy.
DIFFERENT SUBSTRATES FOR DIFFERENT MUSHROOMS
THOSE THAT GROW ON STRAW ARE:
- Blue Oysters
- Yellow Oysters
- Pink Oysters
- Pearl Oysters
THOSE THAT CAN GROW ON SAWDUST ARE:
- Lions Mane
- King Oysters
USING STRAW AS A SUBSTRATE
Straw is a low-priced and extraordinarily efficient substrate that works well for many types of mushroom species; it's an agricultural waste you can find on a local farm. You could also order it online at an affordable price.
You should pasteurize your straw before using it to produce mushrooms on small, medium, and large scales.
USING HARDWOOD SAWDUST AND CHIPS
Hardwood sawdust such as oak, maple, beech, and hickory- or a mix of multiple species are commonly great for the mushroom substrate. You can combine fine sawdust with wood chips to allow quicker colonization of the substrate and empower the structure of mycelium.
Using softwoods like spruce, pine, and fir will not give you the desired result.
This is the combination of substrate recipes to use If you want to grow mushrooms using sawdust pellets.
For every 5 lb fruiting block:
- 5 cups of hardwood pellets
- 4 liters water
- 1-1/4 cups wheat bran
You can boost your mushroom substrates by adding nutritional supplements to the mushroom mycelium for faster and tremendous growth. Just be careful not to over-add the supplement so that it doesn't cause contamination in the process.
Bran (oat bran or wheat bran) is a viable supplement that can be added to the substrate to yield your desired result.
THE MASTER'S MIX
Master's mix is an equal mixture of sterilized sawdust and soyhulls to help you with a viable substrate for growing oysters. However, there are two disadvantages of using soy hulls. First of all, the second flush will not be as great as the first flush. In addition, the mix doesn't colonize speedily, especially when a more traditional supplemented sawdust formula is present.
GROWING MUSHROOMS ON MANURE
Some species of mushrooms can be cultivated on manure. Examples are the Agaricus species, the portobello mushroom, and the Psilocybin species. A multi-day composting phase must be carried out. The substrate is subjected to a heat of 160 °F, and beneficial organisms proliferate. After you are done with that, the substrate goes through a pasteurization process to remove all contaminants.
GROWING MUSHROOMS ON COCO-COIR
You can use coco-coir to cultivate mushrooms at home. It is the combination of natural husk and the shell of coconuts. Some even add vermiculite in the ratio of 1:1. This addition makes the substrate have a good structure and retain water.
You can find coco-coir in your local garden, or you can order on Amazon.
GROWING MUSHROOMS ON COFFEE
You can use coffee grounds to make the mushroom growing substrate. Though it is not practical, it abounds in nitrogen that can supply energy to mushroom mycelium to yield more mushrooms. Its richness in nitrogen can be the gateway for contamination in your project. Coffee grounds are best used to supplement other substrate materials, such as hardwood sawdust or coco-coir. But coffee grounds should be subjected to pasteurization and sterilization.
USES FOR SPENT MUSHROOM SUBSTRATE
As you grow more mushrooms, you might soon gather large piles of spent substrate that you have no idea what to do with them. You can compost it. Leave the pile outside; natural decomposition will take place. It will turn to loamy compost that can be added to your vegetable garden. Who knows, you might get an extra flush or two of mushrooms in your compost pile. You could also reuse the substrate to cultivate more mushrooms. You will have to re-sterilize before reuse. Add supplementation, and you might still grow a considerable amount of mushrooms, though with diminishing returns.
You can donate the spent mushroom substrate or process them to sell to those who will make use of it.
The bottom line is to know and do what works for you, which will yield many results for you. Try and explore and learn different types of substrates, different methods of preparation, and different types of supplementation.
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