Mushrooms & More

Mushroom cultivation

BOOK REVIEW (Written by Jerry Haugen, Mushroom Growers Newsletter)

Mushroom Cultivation, third edition 2003, Backhuys Publishers 429 pages
By Peter Oei

Earlier editions of this book were primarily designed to help less developed countries implement mushroom cultivation projects using a low-tech approach.  Agaricus production was not stressed.  With this 3rd edition of his book, Peter not only updates the information from the second edition, but adds a great deal of new information, including information on the latest high-tech approaches to Agaricus production.  Peter’s broad experience is supplemented by guest experts who provide chapters addressing their specialty areas. The book includes 26 chapters and 10 appendices in its 429 pages. Unfortunately, it still does not include an index.

 The first two chapters, ‘Benefits of mushrooms’ and ‘General biological information on mushrooms’, provide basic background information.  Of particular interest is a section on nutritional aspects where Oei summarizes information on vitamins, protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber that he compiled from a variety of researchers.

Chapters 3 through 5, ‘Substrate characteristics,’ ‘Technical data’ and ‘Spawn, breeding and conservation of strains’ begin to summarize key cultivation information relative to a broad range of cultivated species.  Rather than describing how a particular mushroom is cultivated from spawn development through fruiting, these chapters describe how key parts of the process differ by species.

Chapters 6 through 9 deal with some of the broader issues of concern to growers.  ‘Environmental care and certification schemes’ address the ways farms can reduce pollution and the use of non-renewable resources.  The chapter also describes the Dutch ‘environmentally friendly cultivation’ program and the British Columbia ‘certified organic’ standards.  Chapter 7 addresses production feasibility and raises the many questions a potential grower must attempt to answer before deciding to begin farming.  Peter also provides the principal factors to consider relative to each issue and provides some examples of how to calculate the answers as they apply to your particular situation. Chapter 8 gets into marketing and provides some critical guidance about the development of a marketing plan.  This chapter also includes some case studies about the way certain markets have developed and issues facing already-developed markets.  Chapter 9, ‘Organization: extension and research’, is written specifically for extension and government officials who may want to support mushroom cultivation programs.  This chapter includes several case studies explaining how various governments have encouraged and facilitated mushroom cultivation projects over the years.

 Chapter 10 provides the details on spawn production.  Chapters 11 through 14 provide all the information needed to begin planning the physical aspects of a farm.  All the particulars of climate control including ventilation, heat, cooling, humidity, CO2,  and light are discussed on Chapter 11.  Chapter 12 addresses simple mushroom farm layouts and techniques while Chapter 13 gets into more advanced farms including the latest in high-tech Agaricus production.  Chapter 14 is dedicated to modern climate control systems.

The types of facilities discussed in Chapters 13 and 14 are most often seen on Agaricus farms.  Those chapters along with Chapters 15 through 19 provide an essential handbook for Agaricus growers.  Chapter 15 addresses the general processes involved with fermented substrate management.  In addition to the common Agaricus varieties, Agaricus blazei/brasiliensis, Coprinus comatus (shaggy mane) and Lepista nuda (wood blewit) do best with this type of substrate.  Peter includes sections discussing their particular needs.  Chapter 16 addresses casing materials and processes and Chapter 17 focuses on indoor composting processes.  Indoor composting is one way to avoid the odor problems that plague mushroom growers across North America.  Chapter 18 is entitled ‘Agaricus cultivation: from spawn run to harvest.’  This 35 page chapter, written by Mark Maas, of Cpoint in the Netherlands, is filled with techniques that a beginning grower could never develop on their own.  Chapter 19 deals with ways to mechanize Agaricus production.
Chapter 20 addresses pasteurized substrates used with a variety of specialty species.  Pleurotus (oyster), Stropharia rugoso-annulata, and Volvariella volvacea (paddy straw) mushrooms are discussed in depth.  Chapter 21 gets into sterilized substrates that can be used with most specialty species.  The following species are discussed in depth in this chapter:  Pleurotus, Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), Flammulina velutipes (enoki), Tremella fuciformis (silver ear), Hericium erinaceus (lion’s mane), and Auricularia spp. (wood ears). Chapter 22 is reserved for an in-depth discussion of shiitake cultivation.  Chapter 23 deals with cultivation of shiitake, Auricularia, and Pleurotus on natural wood logs.  Chapter 24 provides a brief introduction to cultivation of mycorrhizal species. Chapter 25 discusses post-harvest handling, grading, packaging, preservation and related issues while Chapter 26 deals with diseases and pests of mushroom cultivation.  The appendices address a variety of topics such as pesticide use and chemical analyses that some growers may find helpful.  Appendix H is an annotated bibliography that is pretty good except for the omission of any mention of this newsletter.

 Overall, this edition is much more substantive than earlier editions and is a must have book for any serious mushroom grower.