Growing oyster mushrooms: additional income on your site

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Mushrooms are a real pantry of nutrients. This valuable food product contains a large amount of essential amino acids, vitamins and trace elements. The use of mushrooms has a beneficial effect on the work of the cardiovascular and digestive systems, strengthens the human immune system. In folk medicine of the East, mushrooms are widely used to treat many diseases, ranging from viral infections and ending with oncological formations.

Growing oyster mushrooms: additional income on your site

Unfortunately, for some reason, not everyone has the opportunity to diversify their menu with mushroom delicacies. This situation is easy to fix – mushrooms can be successfully grown on a personal plot. Today mushroom growing is one of the most profitable branches of agriculture. Growing mushrooms is practically waste-free, since the spent substrate can be used as a vitamin supplement for animal feeding, as well as fertilizer and material for mulching. We talked in detail about the benefits of mulch in the article “Organic farming: making the land good.” The first place among artificially cultivated mushrooms is rightfully taken by oyster mushrooms. Let’s figure out how to grow this valuable food product on your backyard with a minimum investment of effort, time and finance..

Oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushroom, in comparison with other artificially cultivated mushrooms, has a number of valuable advantages. This mushroom is very technological, that is, it has a high growth rate and is well resistant to various diseases that may arise under the influence of foreign microflora..

Oyster mushroom is grown on various agricultural waste. In terms of the number of types of substrates that can be used for its cultivation, this mushroom is unmatched. The most common material for these purposes is wheat straw. In the United States and southern Europe, crushed corn stalks and stalks are used to grow oyster mushrooms, in Asia – waste from cotton production and rice straw, in Japan – sunflower husks, in the Philippines – coconut shells. In countries with a well-developed woodworking industry, bark and sawdust are used to prepare the substrate. Oyster mushroom can also be cultivated on a mixture of straw, soybeans, potato skins, waste from the processing of coffee, tobacco, grapes, sugar cane. Everything that is on the farm is used. Naturally, under the same cultivation conditions, the yield will depend on what material was used for the substrate..

The technology for growing oyster mushrooms is quite simple and does not require lengthy preparation and processing of the substrate (unlike champignons). After harvesting, this substrate can be used as feed for farm animals or as fertilizer..

Growing oyster mushrooms on bags

Oyster mushroom has few drawbacks, one of the main ones is the fragility of the fruiting bodies, and hence the unimportant transportability. However, the ease of cultivation and valuable nutritional qualities negate these disadvantages..

Today, in private farms, two methods of artificial cultivation of this type of mushroom are practiced – extensive and intensive..

Extensive cultivation of oyster mushrooms

In nature, oyster mushroom grows on different trees. It can be poplar, alder, oak, aspen, as well as walnut, bird cherry, mountain ash, plum, elderberry and others. It is this ability of the fungus to infect various wood species that is used in an extensive growing method..

This method was first tried in Germany during the First World War. When there was an acute shortage of food, mushroom plantations from hardwood logs began to be arranged here, which saved many people from starvation..

Oyster mushroom in nature

Today, an extensive method of oyster mushroom cultivation is widespread in countries with a developed forest industry, where stumps and tree stumps are used for the production of mushrooms. You can grow mushrooms on low-grade wood, using the one on which oyster mushrooms are found in the nature of your area..

Long logs should be cut into pieces 30–40 centimeters long and soaked in water for a week. For extensive cultivation, it is more convenient and practical to use bars with a diameter of 25 cm or more. If the logs are freshly sawn, it is not necessary to soak them. Before adding mycelium, the moisture content of the tree should be at the level of 80-90 percent.

After soaking, the prepared wood must be infected with oyster mushroom mycelium. There are several ways to do this:

  1. The prepared bars are placed on top of each other in several rows, with 100-150 grams of oyster mushroom mycelium poured onto the end of each of them. Mycelium today can be purchased at any specialty store selling seeds and garden products. To prevent drying out, the installed and infected bars are wrapped in polyethylene, and covered with wet sawdust or straw on top.
  2. You can introduce the mycelium by drilling or sawing holes in the bars, where the mycelium is poured, and plugged with moss on top or sealed with adhesive tape.
  3. You can infect the bars as follows: saw off the top of the disc, 1.5-2 centimeters thick, fill in the mycelium, and then nail the disc with nails.

Oyster mushroom mycelium

Wood contaminated by one of these methods is removed to a room with a temperature of 15–20 degrees (this can be a cool shed, an empty cellar). So that the tree does not dry out, it is periodically watered with water, and to improve the microclimate it is covered with a perforated plastic wrap.

Planting oyster mushroom mycelium on a tree stump

Bars overgrow within 2–2.5 months. The fact that they are fully ripe can be determined by the appearance of a white fluffy coating on the surface of the tree. The mushroom box is ready – you can put it in its permanent place. A shaded area of ​​the garden can be an ideal option for this. The bars are dug into the ground two-thirds of the height, this will prevent the mycelium from drying out and increase the future harvest.

Mycelium cultivation

Mushrooms will begin to grow when the rainy weather sets in and the temperature settles at 8-14 degrees, this usually happens in September-October or March-April, that is, at the time when they appear in the wild. It is important to note that if it is a dry hot summer, the mycelium must be watered periodically.

Growing oyster mushrooms on stumps

The yield of oyster mushrooms depends on the type of wood used and on the diameter of the bars (the more, the better). When cultivated on hard-leaved species (oak, beech), the yield is 18–20 kg per centner of wood, on soft-leaved species (willow, alder, poplar and others) – 12–15 kg. The maximum yield from such a mycelium is harvested in most cases in the third year..

The extensive method of growing oyster mushrooms practically does not require financial investments, electricity costs and the preparation of special premises. It is simple, understandable and perfect for every person who wants to diversify their menu with mushroom delicacies..

Intensive method of growing oyster mushrooms

The intensive method differs from the extensive one in a number of advantages, namely: a higher yield and the fact that mushrooms can be obtained all year round, and not only during their natural fruiting season. At the same time, the intensive method requires special preparation of premises and the creation of a certain constant microclimate in them, as well as the availability of space and equipment for storing and preparing the substrate..

The first attempts to grow oyster mushrooms using an intensive method were made in the mid-60s of the twentieth century in Hungary, and in 1971 the first full-fledged mushroom farm began operating in the Netherlands. Since then, mushroom growing has spread by leaps and bounds all over the world and is still incredibly popular among those who want to start their own business, or just have a small but stable way of earning money..

What premises are needed

For growing oyster mushrooms in an intensive way, any room is suitable in which it is possible to maintain the required microclimate (a certain temperature, humidity, lighting and necessary ventilation). From this it is clear that the premises should at least be electrified. It should be noted that oyster mushroom ceases to bear fruit at temperatures above 25 degrees, so in some cases, you may need not only heating, but also air cooling. Given this fact, for growing mushrooms it is best to use basements, which do not get too hot in summer..

Oyster mushrooms in the basement

Oyster mushroom cultivation consists of a germination phase and a fruiting phase, which require different temperatures, different degrees of lighting and different air humidity. If you want to put the case on the conveyor, then you need to prepare two isolated rooms for this..

Rooms where mushroom cultivation is planned must be carefully prepared. Ideally, the floor should be concreted, or at least covered with rubble or sand, the walls should be plastered or covered with polyethylene. Before installing the mushroom blocks, all surfaces must be whitewashed with lime, which will protect the mycelium from infection with pathogenic microflora.

Substrate preparation

As we have already found out, you can use various materials available for growing oyster mushrooms. However, the most optimal and affordable option is the use of straw of various cereals for the preparation of the substrate. The straw must be fresh, golden in color, clean and free of mold..

The first stage in the preparation of the substrate is its grinding to a size of 5-10 centimeters. After that, the straw must be soaked in water for a day so that it absorbs the necessary moisture supply. The optimum moisture content of the substrate is 70%. You can determine these percentages at home as follows: if you squeeze the soaked substrate in your hand, then droplets of water should appear. If the water flows down in streams, then you need to get rid of excess moisture by squeezing.

Straw chopping

The next stage of preparation is the thermal treatment of the moistened straw, which makes it possible to destroy the competitors of oyster mushrooms – moldy fungi and other harmful microorganisms. For this, today there are sterile and non-sterile methods..

The essence of the sterile method is to process the substrate using autoclaves. But due to its inaccessibility and high cost, it is used only in specialized laboratories for the production of mycelium.

In large mushroom farms and when growing oyster mushrooms in home gardens, in most cases, a non-sterile method of heat treatment is used. In ordinary household conditions, this can be done as follows: chopped moistened straw is placed in any containers available on the farm and poured with boiling water, kept for 4–5 hours, after which the water is drained – the substrate is ready for planting. Such processing makes the straw less rigid and converts the nutrients contained in it into a form more accessible for oyster mushrooms..

Planting mycelium (inoculation)

Planting should start only when the substrate has cooled to a temperature of 25-30 degrees, if these figures are higher, then the mycelium may simply die. Most mushroom farms use so-called blocks for planting, that is, perforated plastic bags filled with substrate mixed with mycelium.

Adding oyster mushroom mycelium to the substrate

The optimal bag size for these purposes is 50 cm wide and 100 cm high. The bags are perforated in advance, making 10-12 holes with a diameter of 10 mm on each side. The planting of the mycelium is as follows: a layer of the prepared substrate is tightly laid, on which the mycelium is thinly sown, and in this way the layers are laid to the very top. The rate of mycelium application is 3-5% of the substrate mass. It should be noted that until the moment of planting, the mycelium must be stored in the refrigerator, and one day before inoculation, put in a room with room temperature..

Mushroom growing blocks

After filling, the bag is shaken several times and the top is tightly tightened so that the polyethylene is in contact with the straw. The weight of such a block is usually about 14-15 kg. The finished mushroom blocks are transferred to the germination room.

Germination

The most suitable temperature for the growth and development of oyster mushroom mycelium is 24 degrees, the air humidity must be maintained at 75-90%. To measure humidity, there is a special device – a hygrometer, and to maintain it, you can place containers with water in the room or just water the floors from time to time.

Light during germination is not needed, on the contrary, bright lighting can slow down the development of mycelium. Ventilation at this time is also not carried out, since some excess carbon dioxide is considered useful for germination.

Mushroom aggregates

A few days after planting the mycelium, the surface of the substrate turns white, the full growth of the mycelium occurs in 14-18 days, depending on the size of the block and the amount of inoculated material.

After complete overgrowing, the blocks are transferred to a fruiting room. Care should be taken to ensure that the mycelium is not infected. Black, bright orange or green spots on the surface of the substrate may indicate the presence of infection. Such bags must be removed immediately from the germination chamber..

Fruiting

To start the fruiting process, it is necessary to set the temperature in the room at 20 degrees, and within 4-5 days gradually reduce it to 15 degrees and leave at this level until the end of the mushroom ripening.

Lighting must be turned on for 8-10 hours a day, and it will be enough to place one lamp of cold bluish light for every 20 square meters. m. Lack of light can lead to a curvature of the shape of the mushroom, however, the degree of curvature or twisting of the leg is more dependent on the lack of oxygen.

To stimulate fruiting, it is imperative to provide fresh air to the blocks. For this, in most cases, forced ventilation is used with the ability to replace 3-4 air volumes per hour.

Humidity in the fruiting chamber should be maintained at a level of at least 90%, as its decrease may negatively affect the quantity and quality of the crop.

From the appearance of the rudiments of the fruiting bodies to the beginning of the collection of mushrooms, it usually takes 6-7 days. Oyster mushroom develops in aggregates, which contain mushrooms of different sizes. You need to cut off the whole bunch at once, even if you want to leave small fruits, they still will not grow anymore.

Oyster mushrooms on a bag

Oyster mushroom bears fruit in waves, and the first wave accounts for about 70% of the total harvest, the second – 20-25%, and the third – the remaining 5. Therefore, it is more expedient to limit ourselves to the first and second harvests, and then remove the bags from the chamber and prepare it for the next cycle … The time interval between waves is one and a half to two weeks.

Used blocks do not need to be thrown away. You can put them in a shaded area in the garden to give off the rest of the crop. After that, the substrate from the bags is used either as a vitamin supplement for feed for farm animals, or as a valuable fertilizer and material for mulching a vegetable garden..

As you can see, the cultivation of oyster mushrooms is an almost waste-free production that allows you to get a valuable food product for your own family. If desired, mushroom cultivation can be used as an additional income – here the main thing is to find your buyer. Many enthusiasts who started out with two or three blocks in a small basement have figured out the technology and turned this hobby into a major profitable business. Everything will depend on your desires and capabilities..

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