Step-by-Step Breakdown of Mushroom Growth
For some time, there has been contention about whether mushrooms are plants or animals, but they are neither. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi and are closely related to yeast, mildew, and mold. Typically, mushrooms are known to grow and decay quickly, with some even appearing overnight. We have broken down the facts around how fast mushrooms grow. It is also important to understand how mushrooms grow before we explore how fast they do. The growth process involves three steps.
1. Compost Preparation
Ideally, mushrooms grow on the compost. During preparation, you will need to leave some time for fermentation after mixing the ingredients. Ingredients include straw, poultry manure, lots of water, and gypsum. The final product is referred to as mushroom compost.
2. Incubation and Inoculation
A mushroom grows by releasing spores. Interestingly, one fungus can produce billions of spores. However, in the interest of saving time, the mushroom compost is not inoculated with spores. Instead, it is inoculated with spawn. Spawn refers to either sterile compost or corn grain that has been colonized with mushroom mycelium. It takes around a fortnight for the compost to be fully colonized with the mycelium.
3. Casing Soil Creation
Mushrooms cannot thrive in colonized compost alone. It has to be covered with a top layer that is a mixture of peat and lime residue. This mixture is commonly referred to as the casing soil. The casing soil is fundamental for the growth of the mushrooms and has to meet certain requirements. These requirements include being free of pathogenic bacteria, high water retention capacity, and a pH of 7.5. Notably, mushrooms depend on the bacteria present in the casing soil for growth.
How Fast Mushrooms Grow
Mushrooms continue to grow in the casing soil before proceeding to fruit. Let's further break down the growth process.
1. Growth in the Casing Soil
When the mushrooms are in the casing soil, they need moisture and CO2 contents constantly. They also need to be kept in a closed area. At this stage, the air's ideal temperature is around 22-23 degrees Celsius whereas that of the compost should be approximately 25-27 degrees Celsius. Those conditions facilitate colonization of the casing soil with mycelium.
Once colonization has taken place, the area has to be well ventilated. Besides, the temperature of both air and compost has to drop. The air drops to around 17-18 degrees Celsius whereas the compost drops to about 20 degrees Celsius. The CO2 content also has to drop slightly. These conditions stimulate the fruiting of the mycelium. The fruiting bodies first appear as tiny pinheads.
3. Button Outgrowth
The number of buttons depends on factors such as humidity and air temperature. Low temperature and humidity result in more buttons and, consequently, smaller mushrooms. On the other hand, high temperatures and humidity will lead to fewer buttons, which can be significantly bigger. These buttons will turn into harvest mushrooms in around five days.
The Entire Process Combined
The period between covering the mushroom compost with casing soil to harvesting takes around three weeks. Apart from temperature and humidity, another critical consideration is the day length. These factors can alter the length of the entire process.