GENERAL INFORMATION FOR MUSHROOM GROWERS

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Prospective mushroom farmers should know that whereas in typical agricultural crop production activities the farmer has to clear vast expanses of land before planting, a practice that often leads to extensive deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation, mushroom farming ventures are more environmentally friendly.

In fact, high-value mushroom crops can be raised in simple plastic bags, inside a low-cost mushroom house, even inside a cave. But the plastic bag must be loaded with appropriate substrates preferred by the specific mushroom being farmed, the substrates used must be appropriately treated, and the mushroom spawn “seed stock” must be of high quality and of optimum age. Most mushrooms require lingo-cellulosic substrates for growth. Fortunately, lingo-cellulosic substrates are very abundant in our
forest ecosystems, in our woodlands, in our grasslands, and in the wide spectrum of agricultural crop residues generated by our farmers, which are often discarded as waste

Mushroom enzymes can break down lignin, cellulose, and hemicelluloses present in these organic materials into simpler molecules, which the mushrooms then use for their growth and metabolism. Actually, in mushroom farming a very robust crop can be obtained, if the science and art of their agronomy has been mastered. This includes ensuring that the substrate in the plastic bag seeded with mushroom spawn is kept sufficiently moist and that the relative humidity in the mushroom farming microenvironment is kept at the appropriate level.

Mushroom farming is both a science and an art. The science is developed through research; the art is perfected through curiosity and practical experience.

Mushroom growth dynamics involve stages similar to those exhibited by common agricultural crop plants. For example, there is a vegetative growth phase, in which the mycelia grow profusely, and a reproductive (fruiting) phase, when the umbrella-like body that we call a mushroom develops. In agricultural plants when the plants switch from vegetative growth to reproductive growth, retardation of the tips for further elongation is an obvious phenomenon in nature. The same principle applies in mushroom production. After the vegetative (mycelial) phase has reached maturity, it is the time for induction of fruiting. The mycelial growth tips should be retarded by regulating the environmental factors, factors that are generally called “triggers” or “environmental shocks.” Switching on the light, providing fresh air, and lowering temperatures can trigger fruiting.

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