- Making mushroom compost
- Mycelium inoculation and growth
- Fruiting and harvesting
- Amateur champignon maker in the open air
Champignons are a common and fairly common food product for people in advanced economies. The annual consumption of this dietary product here ranges from three to six kilograms per person. Champignons gained such popularity due to their unique chemical composition, which, with regular consumption, has a beneficial effect on all organs and systems of the human body, helps to restore and strengthen immunity..
Today, the demand for champignons in the world market is constantly growing, which provides ample opportunities for organizing a business for their cultivation. In the previous article, “Growing oyster mushrooms: additional income on your site,” we considered the question of how to organize the cultivation of these mushrooms in your backyard farm. Now let’s talk about growing mushrooms.
Today, the industrial cultivation of champignons is developing in two directions – underground and ground mushroom growing..
Underground mushroom farms are sometimes set up in old mines at a depth of 300-600 meters. The temperature at this depth throughout the year fluctuates between 13-17 degrees, and the relative humidity is 85-90%. These indicators are optimal at the stage of mushroom growth. Mine water is used for irrigation on such farms. Underground workings have a microclimate that is ideal for cultivating mushrooms, so there is no need for heating or cooling, no additional effort is required to maintain air humidity. This allows you to significantly reduce the cost of production.
Ground mushroom complexes are a conveyor belt, on which the production of mushrooms also does not depend on the season and external climatic conditions. Such a farm consists of several chambers (from six to twelve), has a special room for the preparation and pasteurization of compost, and is equipped with sophisticated automation to maintain the required microclimate at different stages of cultivation. All work in this production is mechanized. However, the organization and maintenance of such a complex requires large financial costs..
Some gardeners have learned how to grow mushrooms in their backyards. To do this, they use basements or semi-basements. In areas where the frost-free period lasts more than 6 months, mushrooms are grown in the open field in summer. The success of growing these mushrooms is directly dependent on properly prepared compost..
Making mushroom compost
Horse manure is the most suitable for growing mushrooms, which contains all the necessary elements for the development of the fungus. However, today it is not so easy to find manure from stall horses, so mushroom growers have to find a replacement for it. In the absence of horse manure, it is better to use chicken manure, but if there is none, then manure from cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and even human feces will be used. Compost, in which, in addition to horse manure, manure from other animals is used, are called semi-synthetic, and if it is prepared without the use of horse manure at all – synthetic.
The next essential element of any compost is straw, ideally rye or wheat. You can use it only fresh, with a golden color and a pleasant smell. Straw is a carbon and nitrogen supplier for champignons.
Mineral additives are considered an obligatory component of high-quality compost. This is, first of all, gypsum, which gives the necessary structure and enriches the compost with calcium. You can also use chalk, urea, superphosphate, ammonium nitrate, meat and bone meal, and other additives. To moisturize all of the above components, you need water.
There are many composting recipes, depending on the materials available. The classic composition based on horse manure is as follows:
- Fresh horse manure – 2000 kg.
- Straw – 50 kg.
- Urea – 5 kg.
- Ammonium sulfate – 8 kg.
- Superphosphate – 5 kg.
- Chalk – 7.5 kg.
- Alabaster – 30 kg.
Semi-synthetic compost can be prepared according to this recipe:
- Straw – 500 kg.
- Horse manure – 1000 kg.
- Chicken droppings – 20 kg.
- Urea – 1kg.
- Gypsum – 30 kg.
- Chalk – 1 kg.
Composting is a complex biochemical process, which results in the formation of a complex of nutrients that is ideal for the development and growth of the mushroom. To get a good harvest, it is not enough just to mix all these ingredients together. Composting needs to be done very carefully.
The area on which maturation will take place must be concreted or asphalted, since in contact with the soil, mushrooms or microorganisms harmful to the champignon can get into the compost.
In the warm season, composting can be done outdoors under a canopy from rains, and for year-round production you will need a room where the air temperature will not drop below 10-12 degrees. In such a room, it is also necessary to provide supply and exhaust ventilation with a capacity of 4-6 air changes per hour..
When organizing a place, it should be borne in mind that for the preparation of 1 ton of compost, a site of 10-15 sq. m. Cooking begins with soaking the straw, which is pre-crushed to pieces of 5-7 cm long. Within two days, wheat straw can absorb such an amount of water that will be 2.5 times its original weight. After that, straw is mixed with manure and a high pile is formed, the optimal dimensions of which are: width 1.5–2.5 meters, height 2–2.5 meters, length can be arbitrary. It should be noted that if the amount of straw is less than 100 kg, the required fermentation process may not start..
After laying the pile, due to biochemical processes, the temperature in it rises significantly and reaches its maximum on the 5-7th day. However, the humidity, temperature and air conditions in the pile are unevenly distributed. Therefore, to continue the fermentation process after seven days, it is necessary to make a break, that is, to move the layers of the pile in places. During interruptions, the compost is thoroughly shaken up, lumps are broken, nutritional supplements are added and, if necessary, moistened.
After 3–5 days, if the pile has warmed up well, the cut is carried out again. Thus, depending on the external conditions and the compost recipe, 5–6 heaps may be needed at intervals of 4–5 days. After 3-4 days after the last cutting, the compost is ready. Well cooked, it should be dark brown in color, free from ammonia, and soft to the touch. In mature compost, straws should break easily.
For better fermentation and subsequent pasteurization in small farms where there are no special pasteurization chambers, they do this. After the last break, they allow the collar to warm up to a temperature of 60 degrees and do not stir until the smell of ammonia disappears. After the ammonia evaporates, the compost is cooled to 24-25 degrees, after which inoculation begins, that is, planting mycelium.
Mycelium inoculation and growth
The premises in which the mushrooms will be grown must be carefully prepared. Ideally they should have a concrete floor, well-bleached walls and any other surface. This must be done in order to avoid contamination of the mycelium with harmful fungi and microorganisms, which can significantly reduce the yield. It is necessary to prepare the premises for the cultivation of mushrooms in the same way as for the cultivation of oyster mushrooms, which we have already discussed in the previous article..
You can start sowing mycelium when the temperature of the compost after pasteurization drops to a level of 24-25 degrees. Temperatures of 30 degrees and above are dangerous for champignons, the spores of the fungus can simply die.
Compost can be used to fill wooden boxes, racks, some use long plastic bags cut along the length. With a ridge height of 20–25 cm, one ton of compost is enough to fill 10 square meters. m of shelving area. The rate of application of mushroom mycelium is 7–8 kg per ton of compost. Thus, for 1 sq. m of area consumed 700-800 grams of mycelium.
Champignon mycelium can be purchased at any specialty store selling garden products and stored in the refrigerator until planting. The day before inoculation, the mycelium is warmed up at room temperature, then crushed in clean dishes and added to the compost. For this, holes 5–8 cm deep are made in the compost already laid out in the boxes in a checkerboard pattern at a distance of 20 cm from each other and pieces of mycelium the size of a walnut are placed in them. After this, the holes fall asleep.
To avoid drying out, the sown mycelium is covered with a layer of newspapers, which are periodically moistened. In this case, it is necessary to ensure that water does not fall directly onto the compost. For the same purposes, you can use plastic wrap..
During the growth of the mycelium in the room, it is necessary to maintain the temperature at 24 degrees. Ventilation is carried out only if necessary, since excess carbon dioxide has a beneficial effect on the growth of mycelium. The optimum air humidity at this stage is 90–95%. To do this, place containers with water in the room, or simply water the floors..
After a week, check the survival rate of the mycelium. Raise the top layer of the compost in several places, if the mycelium has grown 1–2 cm from the place where the seed was applied, then everything is in order. It will take two to three weeks for the mycelium to grow completely. After the mycelium has covered the compost throughout its entire thickness and width, the film and paper are removed and the previously prepared casing layer is applied. Experts call this process clipping..
It has long been noted that applying moist soil to mushroom beds promotes better fruit formation. This covering layer has several useful functions:
- retains moisture and protects the compost from drying out;
- stimulates the formation of fruiting bodies;
- regulates the concentration of carbon dioxide and maintains the necessary microclimatic parameters inside the mycelium.
Most often, peat is used as a casing mixture, into which chalk or dolomite chips are added to increase acidity. Peat with chalk is mixed in a 4: 1 ratio by weight.
The covering mixture should not contain pathogens of champignon diseases, therefore, before being introduced to the mycelium, it is disinfected. The best way to do this is to use water vapor – it is the most reliable and environmentally friendly method. However, in small household farms, it is extremely problematic to use this method of disinfection, therefore they use a formalin solution.
Formalin (40%) is diluted 20 times with water, 12–14 liters of solution is enough to process 1 cubic meter of casing mixture. It is placed on a concrete floor with a layer 20 cm thick and watered with the prepared solution, then covered with polyethylene and left for 2-3 days. At temperatures below 15 degrees, formalin evaporates slowly, which worsens its effect. Therefore, the room temperature must be above this mark..
After 2–3 days, the mixture is shaken and moistened, after which it is applied to the mycelium with a uniform layer of 3-4 cm. Then, as necessary, the mycelium is watered and loosened. For loosening, it is necessary to use a special device resembling a wooden construction trowel, into which metal studs are evenly fixed throughout the entire area (the design is similar to a brush).
Loosening and watering help to improve the structure of the casing layer, create favorable conditions for the development of beneficial microflora, as a result of which the mushroom yield is significantly increased.
The microclimate in the room during the growth of the mycelium after finishing should be maintained at the same level as before, a slight decrease in temperature to 21-22 degrees is allowed. The mycelium fills the surface layer for 7-10 days, after which the rudiments of fruiting bodies begin to form.
Fruiting and harvesting
The full fruiting of the champignon begins 2-3 weeks after finishing. At this time, it is extremely important to lower the temperature in the room to 15–16 degrees, since at a higher temperature, small mushrooms with long legs and with rapidly opening caps will grow. Such a product is poorly stored and transported, has an unpresentable appearance.
At temperatures below 15 degrees, mushrooms grow more slowly, and the period of their fruiting is lengthened. Air humidity during the harvest period must be maintained at 80-90%.
The formation of fruiting bodies is accompanied by the release of carbon dioxide in large quantities, therefore it is necessary to provide ventilation with a capacity of 6-8 air volumes per hour. At the same time, drafts and strong air circulation should not be allowed. This can cause the mushroom caps to dry out and crack..
Light mushrooms during fruiting (as in all previous stages of mycelium development) do not need light, these mushrooms grow well in the dark. Therefore, for harvesting indoors, it is enough to install only emergency lighting. Direct sunlight is extremely harmful to fungi, as it dries out the casing layer and burns the delicate skin on the cap.
Watering must be carried out with warm water (18-25 degrees), watering must be done carefully so as not to get on the surface of the fruit bodies in order to avoid the appearance of spots.
The champignon crop appears in the form of well-defined waves. For several days, the entire surface of the beds is covered with a layer of young mushrooms, then their number decreases, and after a few days they disappear altogether. A new wave of fruiting begins 7-10 days after the end of the previous.
The maximum amount of harvest (70–80%) is harvested from the first three or four waves, then the number of mushrooms decreases. After each wave, the surface of the mycelium must be cleaned of the remnants of the legs, dead underdeveloped fruiting bodies and other debris. This will save the mycelium from the development of diseases and infection with various harmful microorganisms..
After the end of fruiting, the used compost is removed from the mushroom and taken out to the garden. Here it will be used as a wonderful organic fertilizer or as a mulch. This will help increase fertility and improve the structure of the land on your site. We talked about this in more detail in the article “Organic farming: making the land good”.
Before loading new portions of compost into the premises, they must be thoroughly rinsed and disinfected with a formalin solution, and if necessary, whitewash all surfaces with lime again.
Amateur champignon maker in the open air
From the foregoing, it is clear that the process of cultivating champignons, to put it mildly, is not easy. In order to study it and try it in action, it is more expedient to start with organizing mushroom beds in the open field..
In the summertime, it is necessary to find a shaded area in the garden, build a cover over it, protecting it from overheating and drying out. On the site, the soil must be covered with polyethylene or roofing felt, and already on top of it, lay out the compost prepared in advance. Planting mycelium, tacking and other care activities are performed as described in the previous sections. Thus, you will get a mini mushroom bed. Of course, there will not be a large harvest, since it is simply unrealistic to maintain an optimal microclimate here in summer. However, it is quite possible to get a general impression, to master the process of composting and inoculation. And experience, as they say, is worth a lot. Further, everyone decides for himself whether it is interesting to do this or not.
Champignons all over the world are considered a dietary high-value food product that contains a large amount of protein, and there is practically no cholesterol. Mushrooms are a low-calorie product, which is especially important when developing various diets to normalize weight and metabolism. Having mastered the technique of growing champignons on your personal plot, you can not only provide your family with valuable food, but also get the opportunity to have an additional, and in the future may be the main source of income.