Quality spawn is key to mushroom success

Growing mushrooms on a small scale for home use or commercial sale can
be lucrative. However, Lloyd Phillips discovers why a good-quality mushroom crop can only come from spawn produced under stringent laboratory conditions.
Issue Date: 9 March 2007

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Growing mushrooms on a small scale for home use or commercial sale can<br /> be lucrative. However, Lloyd Phillips discovers why a good-quality mushroom crop can only come from spawn produced under stringent laboratory conditions.<br /> <br /> Shrooms, an established mushroom spawn laboratory and retailer of home mushroom production systems in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, has received non-stop enquiries from Farmer&rsquo;s Weekly readers who all wanted a slice of the mushroom pie after reading about their products. Since then, many people have eased their financial obligations with the extra cash generated from growing and selling mushrooms. With spawn from over 50 strains available from Shrooms, the selection is wide. H owever, Shrooms mushroom expert Phyllis Kruger warns that without a good-quality batch of spawn to inoculate into the growing substrate, mushroom growers could face a number of problems with their crops.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;New and existing small-scale mushroom growers should ensure they source spawn directly from a reliable laboratory where it is produced,&rdquo; says Phyllis. &ldquo;Laboratories produce a wide variety of commercially usable mushroom strains under strict sterile and controlled conditions. This ensures only the purest strain spawn is produced for use by mushroom growers.&rdquo; This is important as it is unlikely that spawn generated in a laboratory will be contaminated by other undesirable fungal or bacterial species that could negatively impact the quality and yield of the mushroom crop. <br /> <br /> To further challenge a mushroom grower&rsquo;s profitability, an infection of a crop from contaminated spawn can be nearly impossible, or very costly, to contain or eradicate. &ldquo;The second reason why growers should source spawn directly from a reputable laboratory is due to some mushroom strains being dangerously toxic to humans. It only takes a single spore from a toxic strain in a batch of commercial mushroom spawn to render the mushroom crop a serious health hazard to customers,&rdquo; Phyllis stresses. &ldquo;A well-run laboratory will ensure this dangerous contamination doesn&rsquo;t occur.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold">Suitable spawn for South Africa </span><br /> Culturing spawn for commercial or home mushroom production requires the laboratory to select mother cultures of mushroom strains developed for South Africa&rsquo;s various climatic and growing conditions. These mother cultures are cryogenically stored at -196&deg;C to preserve their potential viability until they are needed for spawn production. For spawn production, a selected mother culture will be removed from cryogenic storage, and using hi-tech equipment under controlled conditions it will be multiplied to suitable quantities in a Petri dish before being transferred into a special bag of nutrients for further growth. Phyllis says the mother culture-to-spawn process differs for each mushroom strain, and can take several months for some strains to become commercially ready spawn. <br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold">Packaging and delivery </span><br /> Shrooms specially packs its spawn before sending it by courier to clients. It is imperative that spawn reach clients as soon as possible after dispatch from the laboratory. If it is not properly inoculated into a suitable substrate within seven days, mushroom quality and yield can be negatively affected. &ldquo;A laboratory can provide growers with a tried-and-tested, strain-specific mushroom cultivation programme,&rdquo; Phyllis says. &ldquo;Part of a spawn laboratory&rsquo;s function is to conduct regular growth cycle trials of its products to determine the ideal growth parameters for every strain. &ldquo;Mushroom growers should beware of opportunist spawn suppliers who, despite selling a cheaper product, don&rsquo;t necessarily have the technical facilities and expertise to produce top-quality spawn,&rdquo; warns Phyllis. &rdquo;A spawn laboratory should offer a good back-up service to its clients.&rdquo; Contact Phyllis Kruger on 082 939 1616 or e-mail <a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>. |fw<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold">The home herbal product manufacturing system<br /> <br /> </span>Following the demand for Shrooms&rsquo;s mushroom production systems, the company has now also developed courses to train people how to use commonly available plants and ingredients to produce herbal remedies, cosmetics and toiletries, and other products, at home. &ldquo;It was people&rsquo;s need for more income-generating ideas that prompted us to develop this new system,&rdquo; says mushroom expert Phyllis Kruger. &ldquo;Not everyone has the facilities to grow mushrooms, so now they can earn money by producing herbal products in their kitchens.&rdquo; <br /> Shrooms&rsquo;s new system is like an encyclopaedia of home herbal product production, and Phyllis says the product variety is diverse.