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Morel Cultivation (holy grail) and Other mushroom Cultivation

39569 Views 97 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  sb
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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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.
Just found this topic while doing an internet search, trying to get some anecdotal reports on what kind of success rate to expect from planting purchased spores/spawn. By the way, I haven't been successful in my search. I can't seem to find a web page where a number of people are reporting their relative success or failure from planting. Which seems like a bad sign to me. It looks like even this thread hasn't had a post for a few months.

Anyway, I purchased some black morel spawn off of eBay last spring, shipped in a bag of coffee grounds. The bag filled nicely with mycelia, and my brother and I planted some in my niece's yard, and some out in the wild in a morel hunting area, in some places that looked like they should yield mushrooms, but where my brother had never found them.

I should probably note here that I live in Colorado, but my brother lives in Ohio, which is where we had the spawn shipped. My brother and I planted the spawn when I was back for a visit. So, I haven't hunted for mushrooms in OH for quite awhile. Colorado has a few morels, but I have never found more than two at a time, so it's not worth going out just to hunt them. Better to go out for a hike and if you happen to find any that's a bonus. Season is later here also; I've heard around June on the Western Slope.

Anyway, I plan on purchasing some yellow or "white" (from Michigan - is that the same as gray?) in the next week or so and having it shipped to my brother again. I'm not sure if I will make it back this spring, but my brother will plant this year's shipment and also check the spots we planted last year. I will report back on this thread if he/we get any blacks this spring from last year's planting.

Looking forward to hearing from SB on his results, maybe as early as next month?

p.s. Last year, we just planted the bags we bought, but I had already decided to try bringing back some culture to inoculate and prepare bags for planting in Colorado this year. So, it's great to see that SB was already doing this and it appears to work well.
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I also bought black morel spore and have a test bed I prepared last year. We are in SE Ohio - Adams County. I won't waste anybody's time describing it unless I see something come up in the next few weeks. But SB has done the most work as far as I have read in Ohio so far.
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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Hope to see some success. I have put old morels and some rinse water in 2 different spots at my house. One spot is in a flower bed against the house. The other is out back near the pines and an ash tree. 2 years later I had morels in the flower bed and even more out back. The flower bed did not produce last year, but the other patch did. Roughly 4 lbs or so. BTW I have grown numerous species of mushrooms inside before. Good luck guys.
ive tried the old shrooms and shroom water in the yard around a wood pile without luck..i have found the seceret to morels.......wait for it...........they will grow where and when they want to.....keep trying if they can do it we can do it better

Shitake are growing on logs in the back yard. Picture is today, Thursday.
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Update. I was not able to make it back to Ohio this year. My brother has been checking, and none of the areas we "seeded" last year have yielded any results this year so far. Disappointing. Perhaps we planted too small amounts of spore in each area, and it will take a couple of years to get to a fruiting density?

I purchased the whites growing kit from MI and had it sent to my brother. He is going to follow the directions exactly and plant in his own yard. Hopefully will have something to report next year.

I also bought a couple of sets of spores off ebay to try to cultivate my own supply for testing in Colorado. One set is dry spores, presumably for grays. The other is fresh mycelium for blacks on grain, from MI. I have inoculated 24 pint mason jars, 12 for each set. I loosely followed the instructions from The Farm website, I used a substrate of five parts rice from the grocery store to one part cheap potting soil from Walmart (a $1 bag will probably last for another 6 dozen pint jars or so).

I am getting growth in at least some of the jars. About 9 of the jars of dry gray are showing some growth, about 8 from the fresh black. Note: I took a photo of the best jar from each batch to include with this post, but I can't seem to figure out how to embed them. They are only on my hard drive, and it appears they need to be on the web in order to insert them in this post.

In the meantime, I am out hiking nearby trails looking for planting spots. I've found some candidates. I plan to stick close to home for the first ones. I may look for spots farther up in the mountains later in the year.

Again, hope to have some results to report here next year on my attempts to make wild morels more plentiful in CO.
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To everyone who has posted here on cultivation so far. Thanks. That you've done so says you have more than a passing interest as most comments are a winging it from within other topic pages. I'm included there also.

I reread all the posts and realized that I'm not going to be able to respond literally to each instance where good comments, questions, and shared experiences would ideally call forth a response. So, sorry and also thanks.

RE: Cultivation of non-Morel mushrooms.

It's fun to post success. Yea! ...Yet we learn from failure. Most people choose to not post about failure.

Here's what I've learned from mushroom cultivation failed efforts with other mushroom varieties.

In 2011 I inoculated logs with 6 different types of mushrooms, using mycelium laced plugs that you pound into drilled hole in logs: Shitake, White Oyster, Gold Oyster, Lions Mane, Red Reshi, Chicken of the Woods.

1. Seasonalityl. It was not a good time of the year -- August. Too stressful, hot &amp; dry. That happened to be when I had time, money, inclination, all together. But it wasn't conducive to the best propagation of mycelium through the logs.
2. Wood type. Some mushroom types like specific types of wood -- I put Red Reshi into Locust logs, because they were handy. Red Reshi would prefer hemlock . . . verified in my ability to go to moist hilly ravines with dead Hemlock in the Hocking Hills and predictably finding fresh Red Reshi on them.
3. Aging. Few writers define what fresh vs aged wood actually means and how it applies to inoculating mushroom mycelium into logs. Live trees naturally have anti fungal properties in their sap. So, when I used a neighbors 2 day aged apple limbs, they were so fresh that the mycelium wasn't able to live and spread. On the other extreme, 3 year old limbs are so old they are likely already infected with other varieties of fungus that would naturally compete with the desired (mushroom) fungus that you/I want to introduce.

What did I do right. Even at a less than ideal time (August), I used several month old cut down Oak for the Shitake mycelium plugs. I've since gotton 2-3 flushes each year for the pat 2 years. So, I had the right wood, right aging before inocutation,f wrong time of season. It still worked. Maybe 2 out of 3 isn't bad.

What's your experience?
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<strong>Effect of growth medium particle size: smaller size yields quicker, fuller growth</strong>

It's just physics. With volume of particles constant, as particle size goes down, surface area goes up. Mycelium needs surface area to grow on. Whether a jar of grain or a bag of sawdust, there will be a more vital end result with smaller particle size.

I learned the slow way. My learning experience has seen a progression from using free chipped tree wood mixed with pea sized sawdust from hardwood timber mill rough cut to using the pea sized rough cut with deconstructed hardwood stove pellet sawdust. (Just add boiling water and in 1 minute you have nice fine sawdust. You can even find these in tree specific varieties.)

Midway through this learning, I came across a European patent on idealized growth mediums for mycelium grow out. It basically said the same thing. Smaller particle size works better.

My experience with grain has included rye, wheat, rice, rice meal, birdseed. Smaller particle size again works better for quicker and fuller growth.

If growing mycelium initially on grain with the idea of using it to further expand into sawdust spawn bags, one technique I came across, tried and liked, used woodchip/sawdust tea instead of just water to moisten the grain prior to sterilization. So the mycelium grown on this grain was already biochemically acclimated toward wood before the transplant into the sawdust grow out bags.

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Awesome info @sb sounds like fun, how big were your oak logs, do you know what type of oak? Are they in full shade? and where did you get your  Shitake mycelium plugs? If you can tell i would love to try. Good luck this year!
The allure is hunting them, Chinese mass produce them in controlled environment, no? I see China Morels at grocery all uniform and same size.
dr.rezes -- The oak pieces were approx 5-6" wide and 4-5' long. I don't know what variety of oak. They have been kept in full shade, under some pines in the corner of my back yard. Two of the 4 years I covered them with burlap to retain moisture.

I've purchased wood dowel plugs from 3-4 different sources through the internet. They all seemed equally good.

Because of the time to plan, do and wait for a year for your first rewards, you may want to try buying a bag of sawdust/wood chips already impregnated with mycelium and ready to sprout.

It's fun and quick and will give you a quicker success from which you can determine whether you want to do something further.

Again, I've used several sources for this item. I'll outline just one below.

From this website:
I purchased their shiitake bags back in 2011.

This is what it looked like.

After an appropriate, varying number of weeks the block was stressed (soaked overnight), placed in a covered but vented fruiting box and buttons s started to form.

I got lots of shiitake. and more than one flush. It was fun.

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dr.rezes -- As it appears you are in or close to Central OH. another possibility I recently came across is at this link:

Blue Owl Hollow has a Sunday and Tuesday mushroom inoculation workshop. If you help them by inoculating 10 logs then the11th is yours for free to take home. You can learn from experts and take a log home with you.

They are near Granville/Newark, OH.
Hi: Our son gave us a gift of a morel habitat last year. We constructed the box under a lilac bush, and fed it all summer. Let it rest for winter. We are checking it each day now. No morels so far. Instructions say it may take two years, but first year can be several pounds (?!!!!) We are hopeful. We have a 4' by 4' box with recommended soil mix.
All this Central OH (and midwest in general) rain is great for the mushrooms. This pic today of my last two cultivated Shiitake log shows the best flush I've seen in 4 years almost almost all from one log.

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