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Low tech grain spawn failure

Moldy grain

My low tech oyster grain spawn experiment was a terrible failure.  Within a few days, the bags and jars were full of various smelly molds, so I had to discard the grain onto the compost pile.

I was shocked to see so many "weed fungi" in the grain since I've had such good luck growing oyster mushroom spawn on cardboard with similar lack of sterility.  I concluded there were two flaws in my grain experiment:

  • The oyster spawn I started with wasn't chomping at the bit.  I harvested the mushrooms a few days before our pressure canner arrived in the mail, so I had to store the stem butts in the fridge.  And the fridge has been running too cold, so the stem butts got a bit frosty.  The ice didn't kill the spawn, but it did slow the oysters down so that wild molds had a chance to grow on the grain before the less vigorous than usual oyster spawn took over.
  • Oyster mushroom spawnGrain may simply be too rich of a medium for unsterile conditions.  Since damp newspaper isn't very enticing, most weed fungi can't get a toehold.  But cooked grain is delicious for all and sundry, giving the oyster mushrooms a run for their money.

We've started a bit of newspaper spawn with the last few oyster mushroom stem butts of the year.  Assuming the spawn runs (which it should since I've grown oyster mushroom spawn on cardboard before), I'll have to figure out what to expand the cardboard spawn onto.  Cardboard isn't high enough in nutrients to keep expanding spawn on indefinitely, so I may try inoculating some straw for a bit of indoor culture for the winter.  I'll keep you posted.



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What about using spent coffee grounds or sawdust/woodchips? Also, have you done any experiments with using mushroom spore from overripe mushrooms?
Comment by Kim Fri Dec 16 10:19:55 2011

I've wanted to use coffee grounds, but since we don't drink coffee and the nearest coffee shop is about an hour away, I've never gotten around to it... :-) I like logs instead of wood chips in part because they're easier to get on our farm and also because you don't have to sterilize them if you start with a living tree.

I haven't tried spores either, but just last week I was thinking that I really do need to give that a shot. The downside of spores is that you introduce genetic variability, so you're not reproducing the same strain. But I've liked every kind of oyster mushroom I've eaten, wild and cultivated, so I don't think that's such a big deal. Spores would make it much easier to deal with seasonality --- I could take spores in the fall and let them sit dormant until early spring, then start some for that year's inoculations. Definitely on the experimentation list!

Comment by anna Fri Dec 16 11:30:24 2011

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime