Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spore Mass Slurry

Wood chips 2 weeks after addition of spore mass slurry

Nature seeks equilibrium. This is a concept that can be seen throughout natural systems, but nowhere more evidently than in reproductive rates. Ideally, a natural system, in its most natural state, is in perfect equilibrium. Each individual in the system seeks to replace itself, no more, no less. Sure, all organisms would like to increase their numbers and increase their success, but gone unchecked, this is the path to starvation and disease. Averaged across a population and over centuries, a population in balance with the rest of its environment will average one successful (in this case successful means “grows to adulthood and reproduces”) offspring per mature individual.

Looking at a species’ reproductive strategy can tell you a lot about their place in the ecosystem. Top predators, like wolves and big cats most directly reproduce one to one. Sure, many offspring are produced, but accidents and disease are taken into account and not much else. Rabbits are prey animals. They can produce dozens of offspring in a single year and hundreds in a lifetime. They pay a heavy price to predation, and this must be taken into account in the reproductive strategy. An oak tree can live for hundreds of years. Once it reaches maturity, it can produce thousands of acorns every year. Its reproductive strategy takes into account the squirrels (who plant the acorns) eating most of each year’s crop as well as mortality of oak seedlings.

Mushrooms have among the worst reproductive success out there. A mushroom with a decent source of food can live for 10 years, sometimes much, much more. Each year it can produce dozens of mushrooms. Each mushroom is capable of producing billions (yes, that big number is plural) of spores. Only two spores are needed to reproduce; they must land near each other on a food source, germinate, and then mate to produce a healthy mycelium. How is it that each individual must produce literally trillions of spores to simply replace itself in the ecosystem? Personally I think it speaks to the inefficiency of spores as a reproductive strategy. There is a reason plants moved away from spores and towards seeds as a reproductive device. Spores are just not very effective or very efficient at producing offspring.

Often when I speak to friends about growing mushrooms, their first question is “where do you get the spores?” I have to explain to them that nearly all mushroom cultivation is done by the direct transfer of mycelium from one medium to the next. This is  because it is so difficult to successfully and reliably achieve reproduction from spores. However, there are times when spores are available and a good medium for what you are trying to achieve. It is for those times that it is useful to have a method for utilizing the spores that gives them the greatest chance for success. That is when we use a spore mass slurry. A spore mass slurry was a method developed by mycologist Paul Stamets as a way to spread spores over a wide area in a way that helps give them a head start.

The first step is to acquire spores, and that is the hard part. Usually, the best way to acquire spores is from a spore print. If the spore print is taken on glass, the spores can be dried, scraped off, and stored. If the spore print is on paper, the paper can be dried, folded, and stored. You can also add the mushroom directly to the liquid once it has cooled, letting it soak, gills (or pores) down for 4 hours, letting it release its spores directly into the liquid. I have gotten lucky recently and have come across some Coprinus comatus (shaggy mane mushroom) spores. Normally, when shaggy mane mushrooms come up, they quickly deliquesce into an inky, gooey mess, and are gone. Here in Arizona, the exterior of the mushroom dries before the process can complete. The interior still deliquesces, though, only to dry on the inside of the cap. The hollow mushroom that results can be stored. When the spores are needed, it can be immersed. Once wet, the mushroom will deliquesce the rest of the way and the spores will disperse into the surrounding liquid with ease.

Water with molasses and salt added and mushrooms to be added
The actual recipe for a spore mass slurry is quite simple. Take one gallon of rainwater (filtered tap water or distilled water will also be fine, but beware of water straight from the tap as it has too much chlorine here in the US) and bring it to a boil. Add one tablespoon of molasses and one quarter teaspoon of salt. The salt helps inhibit the growth of bacteria that would normally happily consume the protein-rich spores. The molasses gives the spores a little sugar and other nutrients and entices them to begin germinating. Once the mixture is complete, boil for 10 minutes. Then take off heat and cool until it has reached room temperature.

Spore mass slurry after 48 hours
Once the liquid is cool enough, you can add your spores. Let the liquid sit in a cool corner of your house for 24-48 hours. Once it has sat long enough to begin germinating, pour the slurry directly on your substrate. Don't leave the slurry in its liquid form for much more than 48 hours, though, as oxygen and nutrients run out. Also consider that mycelium is a terrestrial organism, not an aquatic organism. It likes the liquid to get started, but it really needs wood or soil to grow properly.

Personally, I prefer the use of a spore mass slurry over a mushroom kit for more dispersed growing. For example, many mushrooms are great additions to the garden or compost bin. A spore mass slurry is a good way to spray germinating spores across a wide area and, provided you have access to spores. It can also be a lot less expensive and easier than inoculating with wood chip spawn. You just have to take failure rates into consideration.

28 comments:

  1. I think perhaps I need to re-read this. Are you saying I can make a Mushroom Slurry and grow 'shrooms' from that?
    My brain is tired, its Wednesday.
    Also, I've noticed that the more ineffective reproductive systems can be measured by how much they try to reproduce- for example, mice reproduce many but eat their excess, humans reproduce much less but more successfully.

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  2. Well, GJ, in a nutshell, you can make a slurry and use that to put mushrooms on something you want to grow them on. They won't grow on the slurry itself. Also, like I said, this method is better for putting mushrooms in your garden than for making a mushroom block and growing them in your home.

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    1. Will a slurry work with button mushrooms in cow manure?

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  3. A comment about the poor reproductive strategy. Is it possible that a fungal genome somewhat "understands" its role in the ecosystem and behaves accordingly? I mean, how could mushrooms be any more successful than they are? There isn't enough for them to decay, or they would be doing it already. Don't they work exactly at the rate they need to in order to maintain ecological balance? Thanks for the recipe though.

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  4. Yes, they do work exactly at the rate they need to. They have to for an ecosystem to be in balance. That is the great thing about ecosystems. If an individual is under heavy predation, for example, the individuals who produce more offspring will be more successful and thus more likely to pass on their genes. If predation is low and food is scarce, the opposite will be true. The point I was making, though, is that spores are inefficient and any strategy to propagate mushrooms via spores needs to take this into account.

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  5. It's a simple energy equation. Sure, you only need a few spores to germinate and the success rate is extremely low. However, if you can work out an extremely efficient way to produce a spore, then it might require virtually no energy to make a billion or more. This makes it efficient. Think of spam email. The vast people won't respond to it, but a few will, and since it takes no more energy to send a thousand emails as it does one, then it's an effective strategy. Plus the spore strategy allows the possibility of a greater diversity of life.

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  6. Also, "Mass Mycelium slurry/smoothie" works the same, you can use already made spawn(or agar) using a blender and water (tap is ok, or atleast it has been for me) blend till smoothe, and dilute it 10 parts water to mycelium, and spread. or you can use whole mushrooms with varying degrees of success, also having some of the base or mycelial mat helps. it will still take a while, i did this for The honey fungus(honey mushroom) (A.millia? i think) will see results hopefuly in. few years.

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  7. A few years my foot !!!! I sprayed the slurry on palm tree stumps in Florida and 3 month later oyster mushrooms !!!!!!!!

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  8. Actually, Paul Staments did not develop this strategy. In his book "Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms" on page 133 he states that this is a technique developed in China. He does not prefer it, but thinks it may be promising in some circumstances. I think so too, which is why I was searching for info and stumbled upon this. Be careful though as this technique is very prone to contamination. In fact for this technique a mushroom is usually encouraged to grow in-vitro (or still sealed in the sterile mycobag) and brought into the slurry in sterile conditions. Then the broth is transferred to a larger liquid medium and oxygenated by air pump, also under sterile conditions. The shade tree mycologist should be able to rig something involving a glass carboy, an aquarium pump, and a sealed container where air is filtered through myco filter paper or HEPA fiter. This is what I am looking into. Although...what you are practicing may be cool for a throw down outdoor bed. But if you want to go all engineery with it, make some sort of steampunk lookin' air rig with filters. Good luck.

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  10. I used this recipe to grow morels around Nov - Dec(Back & front yard). Recently, 4/28/15 - 4/29/15, I've had 6 grow. More coming I'm sure. Thanks for the information, Edmund!

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    1. What part of the country do you live in? I was thinking about trying this in Charlotte and was wondering if it would work.

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  11. How much inoculate should be added to the gallon jug?

    (I have a 10cc syringe of Elm Oyster I am excited to try)

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  12. my approach was much less techie, and more backyard redneck...
    i took a fruiting mushroom and put it in a blender with some molasses and water. i actually added some fish emulsion since its higher in proteins... bingo.

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  13. Can you use dry morels or a grow kit as your spores for the slurry? Or will only fresh work?

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    1. If you get an answer to this question elsewhere would you please share. I was wondering about this as well.

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    2. im looking for the same info, "Can you make a Mass Slurry from Dried mushrooms?" has anyone had any luck?

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    3. When doing mass outdoor beds and such.. blending up a bunch of fresh mushrooms in liquid and then adding lots of water to disperse is no worse than the contams in the soil/medium.. so they grow fast and outpace the contams usually.. especially if you use no sugar.. as the blended parts need no nourishment really and have enough energy in the chunks to send runners very quickly out into surrounding medium... but for liquid cultures in jars you need to do the sterile pressure cooker method if you don't want 90%+ of your jars clouding out and short lived.

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  14. Can you use dry morels or a grow kit as your spores for the slurry? Or will only fresh work?

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  15. In what state is a morel dispersing it's spores? Is it almost dried up? Still standing in edible condition? Just need to know for my own learning.

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  16. is there a substitute for the molasses. Honey perhaps?

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  17. Watch entire video. First half are kids picking all the mushrooms, second half is about how toake the slurry. https://youtu.be/lTFugHA2WaI

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  18. Watch entire video. First half are kids picking all the mushrooms, second half is about how toake the slurry. https://youtu.be/lTFugHA2WaI

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