Mushroom Inoculation

A “How To” Follow-Up on a Farm Workshop

A couple weeks prior to spring break, the University Farm led a workshop on Shiitake mushroom cultivation. A previous blog post elaborated on the skills and unity building aspect of the farm workshop, but here we want to share the step-by-step process on the mushroom cultivation with you.

Like any project, the first step requires making sure you have all the necessary equipment for the project. The necessities for Shiitake inoculation include:

  • White oak logs, 4-8” in diameter, approximately 3 feet long

  • Corded drill(s)

  • Brass inoculator

  • Sawdust spawn (sawdust serves as the medium on which the mushroom spawn grow)

  • Soy wax

With these items, the inoculation process is fairly simple. It begins with drilling holes all across the surface area of each log. The holes should be drilled roughly one-and-a-half inches deep, and each log should average about fifty holes.

After drilling the holes, pack the inoculator full of sawdust mushroom spawn and use it to punch the spawn into the log. When a log has been completely packed, the holes need to be sealed to entrap the sawdust. To prevent the spawn from seeping out of the log, melt soy wax and pour it over each hole. The wax quickly dries over and prepares the logs for the next step in the cultivation process.

When the logs have been packed and sealed, the mushroom spawn must incubate in a fertile and shady location. Experts recommend stacking your logs so that the logs of each consecutive level are perpendicular to the logs directly above and below them. This method, called crib-stacking, keeps the logs in place and helps incubation process. You also want to keep them off the ground; placing the logs on wooden pallets is a good way to do so. Depending on the location, you may have to provide artificial shade for your logs with a canopy or by other means if necessary.

Moisture level is also an important element for the growth of the fungus. Logs must maintain a minimum moisture content of 25%, but ideally they will hover around a 35% moisture content. Michael suggests, “Schedule manual saturation for twelve hours every eight weeks during the incubation period to prolong the harvesting process. This makes it better—more even and consistent—for the mushrooms instead of waiting on the rain.” Michael also suggests having enough logs to break into eight groups: soak one group each week, then let that group set until it rotates through the cycle and is ready to be soaked again eight weeks later. This cycle typically lasts for about six months, until the fungus completely colonizes the log.

Next up is harvesting, but you should come to our workshop for that! Follow our Facebook to watch for the event. Hope to see you then!


Feature image credit: freefoodimages.com


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