Mushroom Cultivation Mushrooms in History Mushrooms have been used by humans for thousands of years for a variety of purposes: Ancient cave image: 5,000 B.C. Polypores found on Otzi, the Ice Man: 3,300 B.C. What is a mushroom? It is important for cultivation to realize the iconic mushroom shape is merely the fruiting body of a much larger organism. For example, a single fungus in Oregon was found to be spread over 10 square kilometers and thousands of years old. Each year, it gives rise to thousands of mushrooms. Mushroom Life Cycle Mushroom Life Cycle Spores: A reproductive unit produced by fungi that typically contains half the genetic material of the parent organism. When they find favorable conditions, they germinate in the form of hyphae. Hyphae are threadlike structures that grow into whatever substrate is preferred by that species. Mushroom Life Cycle The hyphae continue to expand into the substrate until they have taken over the substrate or they run out of nutrients Mushroom Life Cycle Together, the hyphae are called mycelium. The mycelium can be thought of as the “body” of the fungus. It is from this body that mushrooms form. Mushroom Life Cycle To prepare for mushroom formation, the mycelium clumps together into structures called hyphal knots. Mushroom Life Cycle The hyphal knots give rise to pinheads, which are the first signs of very small mushrooms. Mushroom Life Cycle Pinheads develop pretty quickly into primordia, which are the step between pinheads and the mushrooms we all know. It is common to see primordia and they are often mistaken for fully developed mushrooms. Mushroom Life Cycle The mushrooms will sometimes stay in the primordia stage until conditions are just right, but usually the primordia devlop quickly into mushrooms. Once mature, the mushrooms produce spores, releasing them to the environment and continuing the cycle of mushroom growth. Growing Mushrooms When you think about the life cycle of a fungus, it quickly becomes apparent that to grow quality mushrooms, you have to grow quality mycelium. This is not unlike a tomato farmer having to grow quality tomato plants to get quality tomatoes. So, how do we grow quality mycelium? Growing Mushrooms There are dozens of methods for growing mycelium. Most of these methods require strict sterilization standards and are, therefore, impractical for the average grower. For the sake of brevity, I will touch on three methods, focusing on the last of the three, log cultivation. Natural method Sterile lab inoculation Log cultivation Natural Method The natural method just allows nature to do its thing. Hobby cultivators often find places where their favorite mushrooms grow. They carefully pick some of the available mushrooms while leaving enough to continue the cycle. Here in Leysin, there are many edible species. It is NOT recommended that you try to identify and eat mushrooms from nature unless you really know what you are doing!!! Natural Method Here is the shaggy ink cap, found behind Belle Epoque. It is deemed one of the safest mushrooms to eat because it is so easy to identify. Natural Method Here is one of the shaggy ink caps after sitting in my room for an afternoon: Sterile Lab Inoculation Many different substrates can be used to grow mycelium. Unfortunately, once you create a suitable environment for mycelium, many other fungi can take over your substrate, overpowering the fungi you want to grow. To avoid this contamination, sterile lab techniques must be used and perfect conditions must be kept for the mycelium to develop properly. Despite these problems, most specialty mushrooms are grown in this manner. Sterile Lab Inoculation Typically, the mycelium is grown in bags or bottles and the mushrooms emerge from these containers. Log Cultivation Somewhere between the first two methods is log cultivation. The logs act as a safe place for the mycelium to grow and they can be kept outside, eliminating the need for climate-controlled areas. Log Cultivation Basically, the logs are inoculated with mycelium through the use of small pieces of wood that have spawn (mycelium). Holes are drilled in the logs and the spawn is placed inside the holes. The holes are then capped with wax to keep out any competing fungi. The cultivator then just needs to keep the logs moist (in Leysin, watering should be minimal) until the mycelium has sufficiently grown to allow for the fruiting process Log Cultivation To begin the fruiting of the mushrooms, the logs are placed in cold water, mimicking the rains of spring. Different types of mushrooms require different types of wood, so it’s important to do a little research to make sure the needed logs can be found in your area. For example, shitake mushrooms grow best on hardwoods, such as oak. Finally, the logs must sit for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the species of mushroom and hardness of the wood. Shitake mushrooms typically take from 6-18 months to begin fruiting. Log Cultivation Log Cultivation Let’s give it a try!!!