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Morel Cultivation (holy grail) and Other mushroom Cultivation

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It seems almost every wild mushroom hunter/lover eventually tries his/her hand at some form of mushroom cultivation.

This Ohio Forum Topic on Cultivation is intended for those interested in starting or sharing their experiences with cultivation.

I am committing to making at least 1 post per month for the next year to keep this new Topic (Cultivation) toward the top of the Ohio Forum Topic list (which is now at 12 pages of Topics as of 8-2013).

I find the field of Morel information/shared experience available now is greater and of more applicability than what I found even 3-4 years ago. Lots of people are "gnawing at the Enigma of Morel Cultivation" and making contributions. From this process of shared collective experience I believe we'll have some refinement of understanding and successful formulas for getting results with Morels.

Some call this Crowd-Sourcing. I've participated in scientific versions that redefined the number of stars in the known Universe and one that created new tools for finding supernovas with half billion dollar telescopes -- and I'm not a scientist!!

The point is everyone's experience is valid and makes a contribution. So, it's not about right or wrong but about what we learn and how it moves us forward toward greater practical understanding.
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Timbuk2 - To grow out from the initial grain (or here birdseed) in quart jars II used various combinations of sawdust and wood chips with wheat bran and garden gypsum Each couple of bags I've tried a slightly different formulation. I'm still experimenting. I really wanted 20-30 bags to put out this late summer/fall.

I first tried raw sawdust from a sawmill and raw wood chips from a cleared forest plot that is now sprouting houses. Can't beat free. However I just bought a couple of bags of pellet stove hardwood pellets that I am going to dissolve back into sawdust and use..
This link is to a video of one of the more successful efforts at wild cultivation.

This second video is of the nature of proofing that the wild cultivated morels are progeny of the fall inoculation and not morels that were already growing there by chance.

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Morelskeeper -- Most Morel Growing Kits I've seen on the web are simply bags of Morel mycelium growing on a substrate, usually sawdust. I've also seen morel mycelium for sale growing on grain in jars.

The point is you have to do something with it, put it into the ground, woods, flower beds, wood chip beds etc. then wait. I tried that too, but in the 3-4 years before I found Morels in the back yard, I'd also thrown so many bowls of Morel trimmings and bowls of wash water, that I had no idea what actually grew the Morels I found. I do know that the 7 Morels this year were from some of those efforts.

What seems lacking is the knowledge and technique to create the conditions that will enable the mycelium to fruit predictibly the very next season. Results seem erratic with the "How to use" advice that comes with most web purchase.

What is different about the above video is that Paul Stamets basically proofed that the spring Morels came from his fall plantings. He got over 100 morels at the time frame of the video and they came up again in 2012 and again in 2013.

I talked with a person there just last week. Fungi Perfecti hopes to have a "Morel Patch" to sell next year that has a high probability of fruiting the following Spring after using/planting.

I'll share what I believe that the techniques will turn out to be. This is based on my time researching and communicating with others who are far ahead of me -- SO, I HAVE NOT ACCOMPLISHED THIS YET MYSELF. I'm working on taking the shared insight and trying myself.
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Timbuk2-- Afterwards, please share your results of refrigeration of morel mycelium to induce fruiting.

I don' have any spare refrigeration. I read about the technique from "The Farm" in TN and have it in my saved research. Are you refrigerating before or after sclerotia formation.

I would be happy with a predictible technique where I can plant in the woods in the late summer/fall and collect them in the Spring -- letting Mother Nature do the work.

This Spring I grew out Morel mycelium from both blond and black fresh Morels from the local woods -- just diced up and put into quart jars of sterilized grain. From these I scaled up to myco bags of sawdust/wood chips. I have 9 growing now and another 10 bags to use.

I separately tried a reconstituted dried blond morel cut up and a dried one that had not been reconstituted. For me the reconstituted one worked better but not as well as a fresh. The one that had not been reconstituted went very slowly and that allowed contaminents to begin to grow in the qt jar of grain.

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Scott C -- . . . Look forward to seeing those pics. I love the dramatic look of Blue Oyster. Have yet to grow any myself.

Jack -- The ready to fruit myco bags are fun because there's little up front investment of time. Our grand kids enjoyed being brought into the adventure. To them it is magical. (well . . . to me too).

I got this bag on July 22, 2011 and harvested Shitakes in October , so some planning is in order if you want to have this be a winter adventure.

Short version of doing the logs:
Drill holes, pound in dowel rods impregnated with mycelium

I sealed with wax. Some people don't.

I also inscribed into aluminum tags cut from beverage can the type of mushroom, type of wood, and the date. I stacked my little collection of logs which eventually grew to 5 different types of mushrooms under a pine tree and covered with burlap.

First Shitake this Spring, 2013 after doing the logs in summer 2011.
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Morelskeeper -- That is such a wonderful question.

The quick answer is that others have done that successfully.
This link:,content=662 will take you to a 1 page description of Stewart Miller's work. It is titled <em>Grow Morel Mushrooms with Elm Trees</em>.

Stewart Miller's web site is:
This extract is from his website:
<strong>"This website offers trees for sale that have been inoculated with the morel fungus.</strong> The discovery is protected by Patent Number: US 6,907,691 B2 and Patent Number: 6,951,074 B2 cultivation of morchella and cultivation of morel ascocarps respectively. Morel cultivation is briefly outlined in this website and is described in detail in the patents."

He has several pictures on the website of the Morel mycellium penetrating the root structure of an ash tree. This is the basis for their symbiotic relationship.

His minimum order is 10 trees at $15 each. Over 100 and the price drops to $12. The first link had projections of yields as part of the story. He has 10,000 trees of his own: 2,000 apple, 3,000 ash and 5,000 elm from which he projects 5 morels per tree after 7 years. Enough years haven't spun by yet to see if this will work out that way. He's sold out of trees available for sale for 2013.

That's a lot of "Twiddling of my Thumbs" waiting. You need the time, money, land and patience. I'm short on all of them, ha!

Sooooooooo . . . my focus is on creating the stimulus to fruiting that is caused by the death of a tree. Which is why in the east, we hunters commonly look for dying elm or dying trees that have started to lose their bark. Yes, morels grow in other situations, but it seems that the big flushes we all seek and dream of in our sleep come from some exceptional stimulus like the tree dying.

My take on that is that the Morel mycellium is losing its' symbiotic relationship with the tree. So it fruits or sends up the Morel Mushroom to enable the spores to spread.

So the successful aspects of wild crafting I believe are:

To plant <strong>small patches</strong> , maybe 15 to 18 inches square of mycellium innoculated <strong>rich media</strong> like the sawdust, woodchip with gypsum and nutrient booster such as wheat bran covered with cardboard and all this again covered with dirt, woodchips or what have you. The <strong>placement</strong> I'm going to try is to put these far from trees not close to trees. I don't want the mycellium to snuggle up to a tree and be happy. I want it to think the buffet table it is eating is emptying and they need to move on by putting all their resource into mushroom caps.

The future may not validate this personification, however the characteristics I've outlined are meeting with repeatable success from what I gather from others.

So to repeat what I said earlier. It is easy to grow morel mycelium or buy it from 100 different venders on the internet. The success that is immediate--very next spring--in wild crafting is going to be in technique of using the mycelium.

Makes me think of wine making. After a few basic principles, there are many, many different techniques to apply them to get wine.

My endeavor reflects my values and attitudes. I love the woods. I'm not looking for a commercial enterprise, patents, etc. I'm looking foy a way to seed the favorable woods available to me to predictably increase the Morels _________fold. 2, 10, 20? 50? We'll see.

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tb525 -- Great! Keep us posted next spring on your patch outcome. What county/state are you in?

I have Stamets--Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms-- right now on my desk--from the library. First published in 1993 it is worthwhile for me to be rereading it.

I haven't used that formula per se. I did use wood chip &amp; ashes as my first effort 4 years ago as mentioned above.

This pic below is of 1/2 the 20 bags I prepared for this fall patching. I've put out 3-4 bags already.

I did grow out from 2013 fresh local (central OH) tan and black morel mushroom fruit bodies and grow out of black morel mycelium from MI black morels. That is a scattershot approach but I am hoping on insight from this way.

So far I have bags with just straight mycelia growth, bags with primordia or pins and with some with sclerotia. I'm having a hard time deciding on where to put which particular ones.

I'm using a small patch size 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 ft and digging down 4-6nches. filling with 80/20 sawdust/woodchip, garden gypsum, wood ashes and of course grow out from the bags. I then water,cover with a piece of cardboard, and cover further with the some soil from the dig out, leaf matter etc. Placement so far is in the woods in shaded open area between trees such that 80% shade would be the norm. My thought is that when the feasting is over under the protective banquet table, I want them to find nothing nutritious when they attempt to grow out.

<strong>Last night I watched a 31 minute Chinese video of a company in China that is cultivating Morels.</strong>

Well, I can't understand Chinese but seeing Lots and Lots of Morels popping out of the ground got me excited. They are doing it on a different basis and scale from the small patches in the Fungi Perfecti video at the beginning of this bulletin board topic.

From the subject matter ie, sterilazation, innoculation, growing media, substrate composition, moisture control etc. I could see what they were talking about and the video was good quality. I would like to find some that understands Chinese to watch it with me and basically translate.

Here's the link.

Chinese co cultivating Morels
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You may not want to spend 31 minutes looking at this so, there were some good shots of the cultivation from 24:30 on, or the last 7 minutes especially.
If you watch the first 12 seconds, you'll probably want to watch the whole video.
I would characterize the morel cultivation in the video listed just above as <strong>true outdoor cultivation.</strong> I'm more personally oriented to a style of <strong>wild cultivation</strong> -- more like Johnny Appleseed style.

Having said that I believe and hope there is transferable insight to be garnered from what they are doing successfully.

I'm not an expert. I just know how little I know and therefore am willing to ask lots of questions, endure failures and appear dumb in the process.

--All contributions to this topic are welcome and helpful.--

The above link is again to the Chinese Morel Cultivation video. I hope it remains available on the web as I haven't been able to copy it to my computer successfully, even after several tries.

From what I understood from the translation:

1. The Chinese business owner and originator has been cultivating Morels since around 1980 ( 30 years).
2. The morels are cultivated through tissue cloning from wild harvested mountain morels rather than from spore germination.
3. The cultivator as I understand, uses no additives, nutritives, or fertilizers; just a preparative ground application of lime which is more related to insect control.
4. Morel production is primarily sold into Europe, none to the US and very little within China except to very high end restaurants.
5. Moisture control is accomplished by hand dug irrigation channels that direct mountain runoff spring water to a soil sub level, below the height of the raised grow-beds and by hand watering. A figure of 85 % soil water moisture was stated somewhere in the process.
6. Taste tests were expressed as having been conducted that show no discernible difference between the local wild Morels and cultivated Morels under these techniques.
7. Rather than inoculating patches in woods as frequently done in US (what I call wild cultivation), large outdoor areas in open fields were inoculated and shaded by covering lashed bamboo arches with burlap for shade control, creating the equivalent of forest shade. They looked like long black Quonset huts.
8. The inoculation-harvest cycle time experienced in the US by outdoor cultivators using natural cycles -- of Fall/Oct inoculation, March/April/May harvest is experienced in China also, that being approximately a 5 month period. So it appears that they only get a single harvest per year, but perhaps running for 3 months from earliest to latest.
9. It looked like other plants were growing in the same plot space but this not addressed. No symbiotic relationship was overtly expressed. The other plants looked like greens and/or grasses.
10. The individual mushroom grow-period cycle-time was expressed as approximately 14 days-- as experienced here in the US. Harvest is done at around 10 days because their experience is that continued growth into maximize or largest size is accompanied with a fall off in quality/best flavor.

I am now reaching the limits of the translators ability to tell me in English what was being shared in Chinese with the TV News interviewer by the grower/cultivator.

Well, That's it. I plan on finding some one with greater translating skills for a second effort This 30 minute video took 2 hours. Ha. Well, really a half day. I have at least 4-6 questions that I hope will shed additional light on how this may be incorporated into my version of -- Yea!! More Morels in my own woods or a really good wild-crafting technique.


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<em>Timbuk2</em> -- I noted you recently mentioned (on another topic page) putting some morel patches around the house. Was this the same morel mycellium that you had earlier said you were going to refrigerate for 4-5 weeks and see if you could induce some happy morel children to grow?

If so, what happened? My problem is most frequently a lack of a disciplined and timely follow through. That's why wild crafting is appealing to me. I think full cultivation for me would be too much (even if it were certifiably available!! ha).
<em>Help-Anyone with ideas</em>: I began to put out morel patches this fall of the 20 bags I grew. I revisited one set of 4 after 3-4 days just to see and found animals had dug up 3 of the 4. Ha!? Raccoons?, oppossum? skunk?

Several years ago I had read that the Ohio population density of raccoons in urban areas is 10 times that of country — averaging 1 per acre in urban areas and 1 per 10 acres in the country. Anyone with ideas? I’m thinking of using wire mesh boxes I made to keep squirrels from digging up freshly planted stuff in our flowerbeds and garden. Maybe I just need to cover it for 4-5 days till the freshly dug dirt sent dissipates?
RE: <em> Help-Anyone with ideas:</em> Shagbarkfarmohiolic -- Thanks for the idea of using the green plastic mesh fencing with 2" or less squares lain on the ground and covered with dirt to keep animals from digging up our best efforts.

<em>Morelseeker</em> -- Thanks for sharing ideas. My intuitive response especially to the second item was: This person 'has a hold of the elephant' and what's being shared is contributive.

1. My immediate thought in regards to 'check into how tobacco is raised. Ground must be sterilized'. . . was forest fires out west -- some people express the belief that Morel flushes afterward are perhaps connected to sterilization of the soil and/or elimination of competition.

2. 'Long lasting winter snows and later spring Morel frequency': I thought of soil moisture immediately. The Chinese Morel cultivation video profiled above had a reference to 85% soil moisture. This is much above my experience "in the woods" of finding Morel flushes at or above 40% soil moisture. But, again, they have a consistent density 10 times or more higher than what I experience anywhere with wild Morels int he woods.

What was unique to the Chinese Morel Cultivation video was that they used irrigation ditches to maintain soil sub level moisture -- below the level of the elevated grow beds. The grow beds were 4-5 feet wide and as I recall 3 abreast within one of the bamboo quonset type structures covered with burlap like material.

It appeared that as mushroom fruiting time approached the narrow irrigation ditches were closed off and allowed to dry up. They became the narrow and deep paths through which people would walk between beds to hand water from above and harvest mushrooms.

Regardless, the 85% soil moisture and sequencing of types of watering are things I hope to hone on in a future 2nd translation go at this video.

Comments and contributions from any/all appreciated.

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One thing that the first translator did not express as being addressed was whether they were seeding the ground with Morel mycelium or Morel sclerotia.
Time for an update.

On my Morel woods patch effort. I spent lots of time last fall mixing, sterilizing, inoculating, growing out 20 bags of sawdust/wood chip composition. However, I only got 1/3 placed last fall (Oct): 3 different geographic locations of 4 patches each. I'll post my experience this late spring regardless of outcome. The rest of the bags are still in my basement and I'll add them to the gardens around the house soon.

I did a 2nd video translation effort of the Chinese Morel Farm video mentioned above. This time, I had a PhD Chinese language student who had spent several summers in China watch/translate the videos for my 2nd effort. Much, much better result. Read these numbered items below in conjunction with my Nov 7, 2013 post above.

1. Light was expressed to be controlled to 90% shade or 10% light penetration. That's just about what my intuitive 85% shade figure that I expressed in what I was looking for in potential woods patch locations.

2. Moisture was expressed at 80% soil moisture. This is higher than I've ever seen in soil moisture readings. I'm always finding morels when the soil moisture gets above 40%, but I can't say I've seen any saturation levels like that for any extended time in the wild.

3. Plant cover was optimized at around 10% with grasses. They expressed this as advantageous to soil moisture control and for protection from snow fleas (also called jumping bugs). No mention of symbiotic or mycorrhizal relationships. Mushroom yield fell off if there was too much or if there was too little plant cover.

4. They use very mild salt in water or lime in water to spray for slugs in the early morning before the slugs hide for the day. They consider this a natural method as opposed to using any pesticides. This because most of their output is sold into European countries and pesticides are strictly no-no.

5. They have a snow flea pest that is very devastating. If it infects a crop area, they pretty much destroy the infected area. The larva stage devastates mushrooms but they don't cause damage to other growing plants, so little research has been done in China on it. I don't have any idea if there is anything like it here in the US.

Since the morel harvest here in OH would be before a typical May 15 vegetable garden plant date, I'm thinking of inoculating my raised bed garden this coming fall. Any morels the next spring wouldn't interfere with growing vegetables. I would have to engineer a shade cover though for several months use. Optimizing light and moisture can be done easily.

So on to the real issues.

6. They are not tissue cloning as I thought from the first poor translation effort. They collect wild morels each year and grow out mycelium from spores.

7. Their experience is that only 25 to 30% of Morels yield spores. They say that mycelium can grow with beginning ratios of male to female spores different than 50:50 but that the yield of Morel mushrooms will fall off as a result.

They examine the mycelium as it first starts, it appears, and they can tell visually, through a microscope, if the ratio is optimal. This is what they carry forward as a mother culture and multiply.

In 1 of the 2 videos I had translated the farmer told of going from a 2% success of fruiting into mushrooms to 90%. I didn't quite get (yet) whether this was mycelium or sclerotia that they were putting into the soil of their raised grow areas in the Fall.

I'm getting Chinese patents on the process translated and will have more insight later.

They have been evolving the farming of Morels for 20-30 years. In China they have a government sponsored edible mushroom research institute. It's purpose is to help small farmers.

There has been past success with a bio-tech approach in the US with associated patents. Yet no one has successfully duplicated it. <strong>Working with Nature rather that overpowering it</strong> through capital intensive high tech is the way to go from what I've seen. That is my bias.

All contributions are welcome to this topic.

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This link below is of a Morel ascus that holds 4 male and 4 female spores.

Belos is a fast 250K frame/sec video of the spores being shot from the ascus.
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Shitake are growing on logs in the back yard. Picture is today, Thursday.
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