Mushroom cultivation is the intentional introduction of spores or live tissue to favorable conditions in which further growth may take place. Many hobby growers cultivate mushrooms inside of their homes or outdoors on their properties. Large commercial growers often use massive grow-houses to optimize yield over costs. Regardless, everything starts with spores and all cultivators, big and small, must follow the same basic process.
The Stages of the Cultivation of a Mushroom
- Inoculation: Inoculation refers to the process of introducing either spores or mycelium culture to a spawn substrate. Technically, inoculation can also refer to injecting spores or a tissue sample onto an agar plate or liquid culture jar.
- Incubation (aka colonization): Incubation is the time after inoculation and before the mycelium has fully colonized the substrate. A nutritious substrate is more succeptible to contamination until the introduced fungi has fully colonized the substrate. Most often, colonization of highly nutritious spawn substrates is done in a sterile environment such as sterilized mason jars.
- Fruiting: After a substrate is fully colonized it can be fruited. Though the fruit bodies of a fungi are commonly considered to be mushroom itself, they are only the reproductive organ of the greater organism. In most climates, it is common to build a fruiting chamber in order to provide the correct fruiting conditions for the colonized substrate mycelium to bear fruit bodies. These fruiting conditions often include light, fresh air, proper humidity, and space for mushrooms to grow.
- Spore collection: After a fruit body matures, its cap will open and it will drop spores. There are several ways in which these spores can be caught and saved for a future grow. A common method is creating a spore print. A mushroom cap is removed from the stalk and placed upon a flat sterile collection surface. Paper and aluminum foil are common mediums for spore printing. These spores can then be used to re-inoculate a new spawn substrate to begin the process again.
A substrate is anything which mushroom mycelium can digest and use for energy. Appropriate substrates vary greatly on the species of mushroom. The two largest categories are wood-loving and dung-loving. There are two very different kinds of substrates which are used in mushroom cultivation: highly nutritious spawn substrates and mildly nutritious bulk substrates.
Casing is not an entire growing method in itself as much as fruiting method. A casing is a non-nutritious layer added to the outside of a substrate in order to provide optimal conditions for primordia to form and a moisture source for growing fruits.
Many species like psilocybe cubensis, pleurotus ostreatus, lentinula edodes, etc will grow directly from a substrate without a casing layer added, but fruit sizes and pin set may benefit from one. Some other species, like panaeolus cyanescens, require a casing layer to fruit properly.
Growing Methods (Teks)
- PF Tek. A simple approach to growing mushrooms that involves the use of sterilized brown rice flour cakes in glass mason jars. This growing method is resilient to contamination, easy and cheap.
- Growing with bulk substrates involves the use of a bulk substrate in order grow large amounts of mushrooms.