Important Benefits of Mushroom Mycelium, and how to grow Mycelium
The term Mycelium may appear foreign to most of us, but it is not that strange. In this article, we will discuss the Mushroom Mycelium and its enormous benefits to man.
Agriculture is important to human existence, and so far, we are yet to find any aspect of Agriculture that is not useful. And this applies to the part of the mushroom known as the mycelium
What is Mycelium?
What you probably know as a mushroom is just the fruiting body. Mushroom mycelium comprises an underground, complexly twined network of fibers. The fiber network is comparable to the root system of plants and trees. Mushroom mycelium grows between and through plant cells such as dead wood, to use them as a nutrient basis.
While you can use the fruit bodies of mushrooms to cook delicious dishes, the mushroom mycelium can make packaging or an alternative to leather and many other products.
Mycelium fun fact:
The largest mycelium found is in a forest in Oregon, USA. It alone covers an area of 9 km 2, measures 5.5 km in diameter, and weighs over 100 tonnes. Discovered in the year 2000, it belongs to a giant fungus, the Armillaria Ostoyae, over 2400 years old, making it the largest living organism in the world.
What are mushrooms?
For the benefit of everyone, it won’t be wrong to discuss mushrooms from where we get mycelium. Mushrooms are fungi that are neither plants nor animals and therefore represent a kingdom of their own among the creatures on earth. One of the key differences it has from plants is that plants have chlorophyll with which they can carry out photosynthesis. This means that they can convert sunlight into energy and thus build up the biomass from the carbon dioxide in the air.
can not do that. They can only exist if they absorb and metabolize existing biomass. This makes them closer to animals than plants because animals feed themselves similarly. However, fungi do not belong to the animal kingdom. Mainly because they have a different cell structure. Here they are again more similar to plants because, like plants, they have a solid cell wall beside the cell membrane. Fungi also reproduce differently from animals
What we commonly refer to as a fungus is just the fruiting body visible above ground. The actual mushroom comprises a fine, widely branched network of threads, which is known as the mushroom mycelium. The individual threads are called hyphae. They run through the (nutrient) soil for food and water uptake on all sides.
Thicker threads and strands develop on the mycelium of the mushrooms, on which fine nodules form. Under favorable conditions, this gives rise to the fruiting bodies of the edible mushrooms. The fruiting bodies form the spores necessary for reproduction.
Stella McCartney debuts two new garments made with Mylo. (Source: Stella McCartney)
What are the Benefits of Mycelium?
Uses of Mycelium in Fashion and Construction
Mycelium-based materials can be processed into leather-like alternatives, but also into flat textiles and fabrics, for example, by combining them with natural fibers. This creates environmentally friendly and sustainable products that can be used as an animal-free alternative. Examples of these are accessories for clothing, shoes, bags, or furniture.
Therapeutic of Mycelium
Most people make the mistake of attributing the medicinal properties of mushrooms to their fruit. The medicinal loads are in the mycelium, that collection of white, more or less branched filaments which grow 10 or 20 centimeters underground and which can extend over several square kilometers.
These are small channels, small roots that will draw all the mineral elements around them and distribute them hundreds of meters away. They nourish trees and plants from a distance, without needing roots. A tree can thus grow twice as fast when a mycelium is close to it.
The mycelium has the power to degrade cellulose, the main constituent of plants. The mycelium is primarily instrumental in the forest’s flora regeneration. the mycelium digests leaves that fell in the fall, as well as dead trees. It will transform all this cellulose into digestible sugars which it will transmit to the trees via its underground layers and allow the renewal of their sap.
Mycelium is an incredible enzyme factory and a key element of all vegetation. Without him, the forest would quickly become a desert. It allows their regeneration.
This stringy tissue comprises a multitude of micro-cavities filled with water, conducive to microbial life. Hence over one species of fungus is also a source of disease for human beings…
Fungus hates bacteria. However, it lives in a humid environment, which is precisely the paradise of bacteria: but it secretes its anti-bacterial, which turns out to be a powerful pesticide.
Thus, the fungus can function as a natural biopesticide, secreting an ant-killing substance.
Mycelium as a pesticide
What do a mushroom and a human being have in common? We sometimes harbor the same pathogens, except that the fungus knows how to get rid of them. More precisely, the mycelium, this filamentous tissue that allows the fungus to develop in osmosis with the soil, turns out to be a formidable biopesticide!
The mycelium secretes “gluttonous” enzymes to the point of being able to decompose branches or trunks of dead trees, to reduce them to humus. In the forest, the mycelium thus recreates this organic tissue essential to other plants.
How is mycelium formed?
There is the secondary mycelium, called the dikaryotic mycelium, in which each cell has two distinct nuclei. It differs from primary or monokaryotic mycelium, which has only one nucleus and is the first to form when the fungal spores find an ideal habitat for their development.
When spores germinate in a medium, they form a monokaryotic mycelium that does not reproduce sexually. When two compatible primary mycelia come into contact, they form the secondary or dikaryotic mycelium, which completes reproduction, giving rise to fungi or sclerotia.
How to make homemade mycelium ?
To get the mycelium, you must germinate the fungal spores in a suitable and previously sterilized substrate. It is important that there is no light and that the ideal temperature and humidity for its development are maintained. This phase is very delicate, especially when we work directly with spores, and there is a high risk of contamination from other types of fungi, bacteria, and insects.
There are different substrates for growing mushrooms, including grains, wood flour, pellets, straw, cardboard, compost, agar gel, coffee residue, rice, or honey water.
What is the best substrate for growing mycelium?
There is a mushroom growing substrate mix that is more effective than others, and is easy to get, inexpensive, and virtually infallible, known as the PF-Tek method (Psilocybe Fanaticus Technique).
In this method, place a mixture of 120ml vermiculite, 60ml wholegrain rice flour, and 60ml water in airtight glass jars. It was invented by Robert McPherson (Psilocybe Fanaticus).
Prepare the mixture in a large container and then pour it into the jars as above. That’s how it is done:
- Place the amount of vermiculite in the container;
- Gradually add water and stir to moisten the vermiculite (do not soak, just moisten);
- Gradually add the whole wheat rice flour;
- Stir the entire mixture so that it is as homogeneous as possible. It needs to be fluffy and not lumpy;
- Fill the glass jars with the mixture, almost to the brim and without squeezing;
- Fill the jar with a layer of vermiculite to turn it into a biological filter;
- Carefully clean the edges of the container with paper and rubbing alcohol;
- Prepare aluminum foil and rubber bands or tape to seal the jar. It is best to take 2 layers of foil, held in place with rubber bands or tape. This serves as a tight lid and is punctured with the syringe for inoculation of the spores. Finally, the third piece of foil should completely cover the jar so that it can be easily removed if necessary.
Sterilization of the substrate
Once you prepare the substrate, mix it in the glass jar, sterilize the substrate in which the mycelium will develop, and for this, you need a large saucepan with a lid. Sterilization is a very important step in the mushroom growing process. With this, we prevent other pathogens from contaminating our growth medium.
This must be done correctly, so follow the step-by-step explanation below:
- Place a metal rack or the original lids of the glass jars on the bottom of the pot to prevent the jars from contacting the bottom and cracking because of the temperature;
- Place the jars in the pot on the rack or lids;
- Fill the pot with water until the jars are almost covered (leave a 1 or 2 cm gap with the top rim);
- Bring the water to a boil;
- Simmer for at least an hour and a half, not bubbling too hard, checking from time to time to make sure the water isn’t evaporating;
- Turn off the heat and let cool for a few hours before removing the jars;
- Take out the sterilized glass containers ready for inoculation.
Inoculation of spores into the substrate
Inoculating the mushroom spores into the substrate is one of the most critical moments when growing magic mushrooms or truffles. All utensils, our hands, and the work environment must be clean and disinfected. To do this, everything must be thoroughly cleaned with alcohol and put on a mask so that you do not breathe through the glasses. For this step, you need to have the spore syringe of the type of mushroom you have chosen ready. In our grow shop, you will find some of the best strains in the world. The point here is to carefully introduce the spores into the substrate. 1ml per 250ml glass is enough, but colonization is faster with 2ml.
This is the process:
- When you have the spore syringe ready, hold the needle in the flame of the lighter until it’s red hot and wait a while for it to cool.
- Carefully remove the last layer of foil lid from the jar leaving the other 2.
- Gently poke the needle through the double layer of aluminum foil on the edge of the jar to the end of the needle.
- Inject a drop and gradually squeeze the syringe while removing it to distribute the contents throughout the substrate.
- Repeat this operation with the other edges and the middle of the glass. Remember that 1 to 2 ml of spores per jar is enough for the 5 vaccinations and that you must sterilize the needle each time before vaccination, this is extremely important.
- Once you’ve injected the spores, reseal the jar with the foil you removed earlier. Now the substrate with the spores is ready for incubation.
Incubation of mycelium
This part is simple. You just have to keep the glass container with the spores injected substrate in a dark place and at a temperature between 24 and 27 °C. After 1 week, you can see the formation of the mycelium, which only develops the first hyphae at the injected sites.
Depending on environmental conditions and other factors, it takes up to a month for the mycelium to colonize the entire substrate. It’s best to look at the glasses from time to time. If you notice any signs of contamination, dispose of the glass as soon as possible. If you see that the entire outside of the container is colonized, wait another week for the center to be fully colonized as well.