Understanding the function of Fungi in nature will take us a long way toward understanding how to grow them. Fungi is nature’s decomposers. They break down dead and decaying matter into a rich humus like substances that eventually becomes the building blocks of various organisms to restore life. Nutrients are broken down and shared with plants and other organisms to uphold the equilibrium in nature.
As with other organisms there is a race for food when food is scarce. In the case of mushrooms this is not so different. One can find various mushrooms racing to inhabit the same fallen tree branch. The one who can inhabit the largest part of the food source will win.
We can now mimic nature by supplying the mushroom culture with the optimum environment, food source and lack of competition to thrive and produce even crops throughout the year.
Mushroom cultivation is typically done in a controlled environment, such as a grow room or greenhouse, to optimize conditions for fruiting. Here is a general overview of the procedure:
- Preparation of Substrate: The substrate is the material on which the mushrooms will grow and is typically made of a mixture of sterilized wheat straw or wood shavings and other organic supplements. The substrate is packed into bags or containers, sterilized to kill off any contaminants (competitors) and then inoculated with the chosen mushroom mycelium.
- Incubation: The inoculated substrate is incubated in a steady warm, dark environment for several weeks until the mycelium has colonized the entire substrate. This stage is done in a climate-controlled dark room or chamber.
- Fruiting: Once the mycelium has colonized the substrate, the environmental conditions in the grow room are altered to induce fruiting. The temperature is dropped, the relative humidity is increased, and fresh air and light is supplied to the grow room to encourage the formation of mushroom fruiting bodies.
The following equipment is typically used in a controlled mushroom cultivation setup:
- Grow Room or Specialized Greenhouse: A grow room or greenhouse provides a controlled well insulated environment for mushroom cultivation and allows for the creation of optimal conditions for fruiting.
- Substrate Bags or Containers: Substrate bags or containers provide a contained space for the mycelium to colonize and produce mushrooms.
- Humidifier: A humidifier is used to increase the relative humidity in the grow room, which is necessary for fruiting. Often this exceeds 80% relative humidity.
- Air Filtration System: An air filtration system helps to maintain a sterile environment and prevent contamination by removing spores of bacteria or other microorganisms from the air.
- Climate-Controlled Grow Chamber: A climate-controlled grow chamber provides the ability to control temperature, relative humidity, and other environmental factors to induce fruiting.
- Lighting System: A lighting system is used to provide the appropriate amount and spectrum of light to the mushrooms during their growth.
- Sterilization Equipment: Sterilization equipment, such as an autoclave, is used to sterilize the substrate and other materials used in the cultivation process to prevent contamination.
- Harvesting Equipment: Harvesting equipment, such as a mushroom picker or scissors, is used to carefully cut the mushrooms from the substrate without damaging the mycelium.
- Cleaning Supplies: Cleaning supplies, such as bleach and sanitizers, are used to clean and sanitize the grow room and equipment to prevent contamination.
- Thermometer and Hygrometer: A thermometer and hygrometer are used to monitor and maintain the temperature and relative humidity in the grow room.
- pH Meter: A pH meter is used to measure the acidity of the substrate and adjust it to the appropriate level for optimal growth.
- Fans: Fans are used to circulate air in the grow room and maintain fresh air supply.It’s important to note that while these are the typical pieces of equipment used in mushroom cultivation, the specific equipment and setup may vary depending on the type of mushroom being grown and the scale of the operation. A small, home-based mushroom cultivation setup will likely require less equipment than a commercial-scale operation.