Mushroom Cultivation is a simple procedure that can be followed in your backyard if you have the favorable conditions. All you need on your hands are the required materials, good conditions and a sound knowledge of the techniques to make a good harvest.
How are mushrooms grown?
This succulent fungi species that we eat so usually are grown from spores, not seeds which are so small that it is not possible to see one with the naked eye. As they aren’t plants and hence cannot make their own food, they rely on other living material for nourishment and growth. These materials can be wood, sawdust, grain, straw wood chips or a liquid.
PHASE I – SPAWNING
A mixture of the spores and the nutrient materials is called a spawn. This fungus; i.e., the mushroom is actually the fruit from the spores which will nourish in the spawn. The spawn will support the mushroom growth but the produce will be amazing if applied on a growing medium. The growing medium can be made of cardboard, wood logs or wood chips or a mixture of all these materials called‘compost’.
The spawn is spread onto the compost, by hand or with a rake like tool and once the spawn is level with the compost, the temperature is maintained at 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is kept high to prevent the spawn or the compost surface from drying out.
It takes time for the spawn to completely colonize the compost. Usually it can take up-to 14 to 21 days. It depends on the distribution of spawn on the compost and the temperature and moisture level. Once the spawn has taken over the compost, preparation for the next phase is done.
PHASE II – CASING
As the name itself suggests, casing is the top-coat or the ‘case’ applied to the spawn-run compost and is the platform where the mushrooms will grow from. It is a mixture of limestone and peat-moss or old, weathered compost can also be recycled as the casing. It does not require many nutrients as it just acts as a water tank for the mushroom hydration. It is important to pasteurize the casing to kill pesticides and insects and also to spread it uniformly over the compost. The even depth of the casing will allow the spawn to move in and through the casing at the same rate so the mushrooms all grow at the same time.
After the casing is properly done, the temperature of should be maintained at 75 degrees Fahrenheit for almost 5 days and the humidity should also be high.
After this period, the temperature should be reduced by 2 degrees Fahrenheit every day. Water must be applied at intervals to maintain the moisture content until the initial signs of mushrooms, mushroom pins, can be seen. Knowing how much water to apply and when – something you learn only with experience.
PHASE III – PINNING
Pins – four times the size of a mushroom initial. These pins expand and grow larger are ultimately turned into mushrooms. Mushrooms that can be harvested appear after around 18 to 21 days of casing. The carbon dioxide content of the room in which mushrooms are cultivated should be kept 0.08%, with a percentage of 0.04 just outside the cultivar. The introduction of fresh air to reduce the carbon dioxide percentage is crucial. If the room is ventilated too soon, the initials can form below the casing and the mushrooms can be dirty at harvest time. Taking care of the water level is essential due to the same reason.
This step determines the production yield and the quality of harvest and is therefore holds importance in the production cycle.
PHASE IV – HARVEST
Mushrooms are harvested in a 7 – 10 day cycle but this depends on the temperature, humidity and the stage at which they are picked. In order to increase the shelf-life,commercially-grown mushrooms are allowed to ‘breathe’ after the harvest and storage in a non waxed paper bag is preferred rather than a plastic bag. Freshly harvested mushrooms are refrigerated before packaging at 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.