A well-functioning laminar flow hood is an essential tool for mushroom cultivators. It eliminates contamination risks, significantly improves yields, and elevates overall quality in cultivation endeavors.

Whether you choose to build your own or purchase a pre-built hood, consider the size and type that fits your workspace and specific projects. Choosing the right one can greatly impact your success rate, cost, and ease of use.

Use Substrate Blocks and Monotubs

If you’re growing mushrooms at a large enough scale, you may want to switch from using mushroom grow bags to working with monotubs. This technique is easier to handle when it comes to substrate preparation, and it allows you to use larger quantities of the medium while also allowing for more control over environmental conditions like humidity.

Monotubs are essentially clear plastic tubs that are used to grow single-species colonies of mushrooms at a time. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most come with six holes in the side that are drilled close to the bottom. These holes are stuffed tightly with a nutrient-rich material that will hold moisture while promoting mycelial growth. The most common bulk substrate is straw, which works well for shiitake and other species that thrive in wood-based habitats. However, you can also use sawdust or even pre-inoculated pellets made specifically for growing mushrooms.

Once your bulk substrate is fully colonized, it’s time to begin casing your monotubs. A good option is to buy a compressed block of coco coir, which is mixed with vermiculite in a ratio that is ideal for cultivating mushrooms. The block can be soaked in sanitized water until it is completely hydrated, which takes about two days.

The next step is to fill the monotubs with a layer of your preferred substrate and add colonized grain spawn on top of it. Once you’ve filled the tubs, make sure that the spores are evenly distributed throughout the medium. It’s important to avoid taking off the lid to mist and fan the monotubs, as this will encourage contamination for many species of mushrooms.

Add a Mini-Greenhouse

Mushrooms are a unique group of organisms that demand a different growing medium than most other plants. Using compost that has been mixed with straw and horse manure provides the right nutrients for these heat-loving organisms. This is also the ideal environment for mushroom mycelium to thrive and start fruiting.

While mushrooms do not use light for photosynthesis, it does influence their growth and indicates the onset of fruiting conditions. However, it is crucial to not expose your mushroom kit to direct sunlight or the temperature will rise too much and affect your yields.

A four-tier greenhouse is an excellent solution to this problem as it allows you to maintain a specific humidity and airflow while still providing the spores with the necessary light they need for success. It can accommodate multiple trays or blocks of substrate, and its automated misting system means that you can forget about spraying manually for the most part.

A greenhouse will also help to increase your yield by allowing you to harvest more shrooms before the cap opens up. This is an important step to boost your mushroom yield as harvesting at this stage of growth will give you a greater dried weight than letting the shrooms grow to maturity and have their caps open up. The only downside of this is that you will not be able to grow large shrooms. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as some people prefer smaller, more delicate mushroom varieties. Ultimately it is up to the individual grower to decide when to harvest their mushrooms and how many to bring in for processing. Keeping records of growing methods and the genetic stability of the mushrooms can help with this decision making process as well.

Create a Sterile Zone

Fungi thrive in dark, damp, warm environments and are often opportunistic pests, contaminating the environment around them. This can lead to a host of problems for both your yield and quality. Maintaining a sterile zone is essential to boosting your mushroom cultivation. A laminar flow hood is one of the most effective tools for maintaining a sterile zone. These are used by scientists and mycologists for a variety of tasks including agar work, spore prints, liquid cultures and other more sciency stuff that requires a sterile environment.

Most mushroom growers start with a still air box and eventually graduate to an FFU or LFH. While the price tag may seem high, it’s important to weigh out your needs and budget. Depending on what you plan to use it for (like agar work, spawning or inoculating), it could be worth it in the long run.

PF tek growers often create their own substrate cakes out of mason jars and then sterilize and inoculate them to get a jumpstart on their fruiting process. Using this technique can save you money on pre-sterilized substrate and reduce the likelihood of contamination. It’s also a great way to learn more about mushroom growing by experimenting with different variables and techniques.

Adding supplements to the compost at casing is often done to speed up mycelial colonization and stimulate growth. But this can be risky if the materials are not properly sterilized. This is because weed molds, nematodes and pathogens can quickly contaminate the substrate before the mushrooms take hold. A pressure cooker is a good choice for sterilizing non-straw or supplemented mushroom substrates, but a laboratory autoclave is much more reliable and affordable.

Add a Heater

Mushroom yield is a measure of how many mushrooms can be produced in a certain time period. It is usually determined by measuring the weight of fresh mushrooms after harvest. The higher the yield, the more cost-effective your grow. However, the exact quantity of fresh mushroom produced can vary wildly between different flushes, depending on growing conditions and substrate availability.

Mushrooms need a lot of oxygen (O2) to thrive and produce good yields. But if the air in your mushroom growing environment is too rich with carbon dioxide (CO2), it can inhibit fruiting.

This is why a good carbon dioxide control system is vital for your grow room, or monotubs, and a quality HEPA filter is recommended. The HEPA filter traps any contaminants and keeps the sterile working zone free of contamination. This makes it ideal for agar work, inoculations, spore prints and other sciency mycological tasks.

The addition of a simple carbon dioxide supplement at the casing stage has been shown to improve mushroom yield by up to 60%. These supplements are available commercially, but can be expensive if used in large quantities.

In addition to aeration, other factors that impact mushroom yield include temperature, humidity and light. Most commercial growers use an automated control system to manage these variables. The system should be adjusted for the specific cultivar to get optimal results.

It is also helpful to keep a grower’s log to track and analyze your growing practices. By recording metrics like incubation conditions, spore subspecies and source, types of substrates used and ratios, and general dried weight data you can gain an understanding of the factors that impact yield. Keeping track of these variables will help you optimize your growing practice and boost your mushroom yield.

Add a Light

The sterile environment created by the laminar flow hood dramatically increases the success rate of mushroom cultivation. This means better results and more yield for both amateur and commercial mycologists. For this reason, a good quality hood is essential for any mycology lab. It can greatly reduce the number of failed attempts and wasted materials, making it more cost-effective in the long run.

The process of inoculation is one of the most delicate stages of mushroom cultivation. This is because it involves introducing spores or mycelium into a sterile substrate, making it an ideal breeding ground for any microorganism. This is why it’s best to perform this step under a flow hood, which provides an uninterrupted stream of filtered clean air that can prevent contamination and help your inoculation succeed.

Once you’ve inoculated the sawdust block, it’s time to add the mushroom spawn and fruit the bucket. You can use any clean bucket for this, but if you’re growing them on a large scale, it’s recommended to buy a new one and not an old one that may have traces of chemicals from previous uses. Once the bucket is filled with spores, it’s important to mix them thoroughly to avoid any pockets of uncolonized spores. This should be done under a flow hood, which again, helps to prevent contamination and speed up the colonization process.

Keeping a laminar flow hood (like the one linked here, we recommend it) properly powered is crucial to its effectiveness. Make sure that you have a stable power supply, such as an uninterruptible power system (UPS). This will ensure that your workflow isn’t interrupted in the event of a power outage or other issues. Also, be sure to place your hood in a location that’s easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance.

Experiment with Substrates and Supplements

Mushroom growers have a wide range of substrates and supplements to choose from, each with its own unique benefits and challenges. Experimenting with different combinations can help you find the optimal mix for your specific cultivar and growing conditions.

One popular substrate is straw, which is often used for wood-loving species like shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Straw is relatively cheap and easy to prepare, but it can be prone to contamination if not properly pasteurized or sterilized. Adding supplements like wheat bran or rice bran can help speed up colonization and increase yields.

Another option is sawdust, which can be used on its own or mixed with other materials like wood chips or coffee grounds. Sawdust is often used for species that prefer a more dense and woody substrate, like lion’s mane or reishi. Supplementing sawdust with nitrogen-rich materials like soybean hulls or alfalfa meal can help boost mycelial growth and fruiting.

Manure-based substrates are another popular choice, particularly for button mushrooms and other Agaricus species. Horse manure or poultry manure can be mixed with straw or other materials to create a nutrient-rich substrate that supports rapid growth and high yields. However, manure-based substrates can also be more prone to contamination and odor issues, so proper composting and pasteurization techniques are essential.

Finally, some growers are experimenting with alternative substrates like cardboard, paper waste, or even spent coffee grounds. While these materials may not be as productive as traditional substrates, they can be a low-cost and sustainable option for small-scale or hobby growers.

No matter what substrate or supplement you choose, it’s important to work in a sterile environment and follow proper techniques to minimize the risk of contamination. A laminar flow hood can be an invaluable tool in this regard, providing a clean and controlled workspace for inoculation, spawning, and other critical stages of the cultivation process.

By experimenting with different substrates and supplements, and using a flow hood to maintain a sterile environment, you can optimize your mushroom yield and produce high-quality fruiting bodies that are both delicious and nutritious. Whether you’re a commercial grower or a home hobbyist, these techniques can help you take your cultivation game to the next level.