Miesięczne archiwum: Czerwiec 2014

New ideas, technologies and the development of Polish mushroom industry

Nikodem Sakson

Business development is based on one hand on overcoming the existing barriers, and on the other hand on searching for new ideas and technologies, which would allow achieving better results at its everyday functioning. Polish mushroom industry is nowadays a significant part of this business all around the world.

Four unsolved problems of mushroom industry all over the world

  1. Stagnation and variability of mushroom yielding resulting from lack of improvement of quality and stability of produced compost. In Europe for years now the average yield of mushroom on fresh market using the phase III compost has been reaching a level of 30–32 kg/m2. Whereas on the world 40% usage of substratum can’t be exceeded, regardless of the raw materials used and technologies of producing the substratum.
  2. Pests and diseases, mainly dry rot and green mold still cause significant loss of crops.
  3. For years there hasn’t been a satisfactory improvement in reducing the cost of work during the manual picking.
  4. Malodorous odors, which occur during a production of phase I compost, are still a problem in development of mushroom industry.

The production of substratum became nowadays a significant part of poultry production, transferring a part of profit to poultry industry. This means that mushroom industry is participating in maintaining competitive prices of poultry. In this situation poultry industry doesn’t bear the costs of utilization of excrements emerging during the production of broilers and eggs. This at the same time means that production of mushrooms is more and more becoming an element of environmental protection. How to assess such role of mushroom industry? Especially, that composting plants largely take part in utilization of other wastes from other animal productions, not only poultry. The reason for this is that some of supplements of phase III compost have animal waste. Clients buying mushrooms bear the costs of this utilization.

New ideas solving current problems of mushroom industry

  1. The growth and stabilization of mushroom yielding and the level of substratum usage.

Problem: If the production plants are equipped accordingly, why isn’t it possible to achieve regular yield of 20 kg/m2 in the first and second flush? Periodically the yield achieved in the first flush sometimes reaches the level of 23 kg/m2. The same can be said about the yield from the third flush, as it doesn’t exceed the level of 5 kg/m2, and the abundance of compost allows reaching the same level in the fourth flush.

Still not less than 60% of compost mass has to be utilized, even though mushrooms should be able to go on yielding.

Solution: A new paradigm: „growing mushrooms is a controlled process of its nutrition”.

It is based on four assumptions. First two relate to nutrition:

1. Mushrooms take part in a process of mineralization of galenical dead matter. Mushrooms’ nutritional needs are based on acquisition of energy, carbon, water, oxygen and minerals from it. Dead organic matter with adequate composition provides all the nutritional needs of mushrooms. Achieving the yielding of a certain level it is necessary to provide an access to needed amount of nutrients, balanced by the need of water and with access to oxygen.

2. The yield of first and second flush is dependent on the mass of the spawn, where the nutrients and water are accumulated. The growth of spawn’s mass can be controlled by the process of recolonization, when transfer of nutrients and water from the substratum to spawn takes place. The spawn of mushrooms in a casing soil shouldn’t dry out nor should casing soil have deficit of water during the whole yielding process. Yielding in third and later flushes depends on the course of the process of cold composting of the substratum on a shelf without its active participation.

The other two assumptions relate to controlling the way pins and fruiting bodies behave:

1. To achieve an expected level of yield by supplying the nutritional needs of mushrooms it is necessary to use the effect of domination of pins and growing fruiting bodies by creating and controlling the behavior of its individual generations.

2. The process of nutrition has to be carried out in conditions of controlled growth of the mass of fruiting bodies, which at the same time provides water and nutrition uptake by them. This means maintaining the welfare.

  1. Cultivation of mushrooms without using pesticides.

Problem: Is using pesticides necessary to protect cultivation of mushrooms from diseases and pests?

Solution: It isn’t necessary because mechanism of biosuppression of mushrooms can be used in relations to competitive mushrooms, located in a substratum. During the process of biosuppression mushrooms eliminate microflora unfavorable for her. They achieve this goal by increasing concentration of carbon dioxide, by changing the PH of the environment and by producing hydrogen peroxide during enzymatic digestion of nutrients (compost and supplement). In case of green mold (there are no infections at the moment) the problem may possibly be solved by intensive recolonization connected with increasing the amount of water during this period.

The same mechanism can be used in case of germinating spores of fungal diseases, which attack the spawn during the period of yielding (dry and white rot). Those fungal diseases are residue of primal infections, which means the residue of spores of those diseases in a casing soil after placing on the substratum. This process can be supported by adding salt to casing soil with large dosage of water, which washes the casing soil. Effectiveness of biosuppression is additionally enhanced by very short period of time from putting the casing soil to shock (4 days), with balanced dosage of water and added supplement.

A special diet can be used in the nutrition of mushrooms, which elements would also deter diptera.

Rapid growth of spawn’s mass during the recolonization period can secure substratum from colonization from nematodes.

  1. Production of substratum without malodorous odors.

Problem: How can odors are eliminated during production of compost?

Solution: They can be eliminated by omitting phase I during the production of compost. It is yet an unsolved question whether on such substratum the same or bigger level of yield can be achieved in comparison to cultivating mushrooms on traditional compost.

American research using cut corn stover in production of substratum omitting phase I is a beginning of work on solving this problem. Theoretically it can be assumed that it is possible. The process of nutrition of mushrooms allows this. But more research on wider scale is needed.

  1. Improving effectiveness of selective harvesting.

Problem: Can selective harvesting be simplified such way that its efficiency is enhanced, yield and the quality of collected fruiting bodies is improved?

Solution: It can be achieved by introducing a device choosing fruiting bodies to collect automatically (Advanced Mushroom Research). It could choose only those fruiting bodies, which should be collected. Harvesting too early (loss of mass) or too late (loss of quality) could be avoided. Such way additional lowering of costs could be possible, by hiring cheaper, less trained workers. Possibility of controlling effect of domination and incubation of fruiting bodies without loss of quality should improve results of using this device.

Other ideas

Other ideas existing in the industry can be pointed out:

1. Balanced production of mushrooms by taking ecological actions, especially conserving energy used in production. Mushroom Business propagates it the most.

2. New strains of mushrooms which give improved level of yield and better quality.

3. Nutrigain develops other concept of growing based on nutrition of mushrooms on every stage of its production, by using their own products from natural nutrients.

Technologies

Using grinded and crafted corn as a supplement for substratum and controlling nutrition of mushrooms.

Using controlled nutrition based on a supplement containing grinded and crafted corn is a technology of production of mushrooms that should be done in following stages:

  1. Replacing protein supplements with supplement from crafted corn on a level of 0, 5–1%.

This change allows reducing the cost of supplement and stabilization of the yielding if small decreases of quality of substratum occur. The possibility of increase of quality of fruiting bodies also occurs, only if the amount of corn and mushrooms’ need for water in compost is balanced. This technology allows improving the quality of fruiting bodies and stabilization of yield on a level of 30 kg/m2.

  1. Stabilization of production on average yearly level of 32–34 kg/m2 and 2% dose of corn as supplement.

There is a possibility to improve yielding level to 37 kg/m2, with a dose of supplement up to 2% and putting casing soil in amount of 85–90 kg/m2. It allows improving the usage of fresh substratum mass up to 43–44%. In this case the necessary condition of achieving mentioned effects is also balancing the amount of water with the dose of used supplement in the recolonization phase and applying procedures of control of the behavior of pins and fruiting bodies during the whole period of incubation. Yield of this level is probably the limit of this supplement’s ability of improvement. Further additions to compost most likely do not balance the needs of mushrooms, so it could improve yielding based on nutrients contained in minimal amounts in compost. Problems with nutrients like for example microelements could be the reason for this.

  1. The 40+ technology of nutrition – average yield on a level of 40 kg/m2 of mushrooms with over 95% of best class, with reduction of production costs by changing the diet further. Continuation of research of technology allowing such results is needed.

In a longer term a new standard of quality of Polish mushrooms should arise. It should be promoted on main markets, improving competitiveness of Polish producers.

Technological gap

One can say that a technological gap occurred in Poland this year. It is connected to mushroom production on phase III substratum that is available on a market. This gap is a result of development of technology in Poland. Right now from technical point of view the gap reaches 5 kg/m2 and it will increase possibly up to 10 kg/m2 next year. This gap is even bigger from economic perspective, because such results can be achieved by reducing the need of energy by around 10% and reducing the cost of pesticides by 2 zł/m2. It is also achieved by increasing the level of the yield by 5% and 5-10% increase in income as a result of improving the quality of collected fruiting bodies and prolonging the time of their usefulness for sale. Gaining such results doesn’t require additional investments and is accompanied by reducing the fixed costs.

This technological gap can be intensified after development of new technology of production of substratum with omitting phase I, which was up until now necessary in production of compost. It could reduce the cost of producing substratum even to 50%, but some other additional investments will then be needed. Scale of this investment is difficult to estimate, because of lack of specific technology. At the moment it can’t be indicated when or where such technology will appear, and what will be the level of yield of mushrooms.

Implementation of new technologies

The basic question is: who will be implementing new technologies in a situation when companies which create their own efficient new technologies and bear the costs of adapting them, will master the production of mushrooms and will get desirable effects, are not interested in sharing it. It is in their interest for technologies to be popularized slowly, because it provides them with longer period of innovative profits. Those profits can reach 20% of production costs without additional costs of acquiring and adapting the technology, which are relatively low.

Is it possible nowadays to repeat the situation from years 2000 – 2004? At this time thanks to the transfer of technology from Holland and adaptation to polish conditions essential improvement of the level of yield was obtained (around 2 kg/m2 bigger than in Holland).

Mushroom industry in Podlaski in consideration of technological gap.

It is mainly in Podlaski Region where the biggest development of Polish mushroom industry takes place. This question can be asked: is it true that in this region 90% of Polish mushrooms are produced, or is it just information created by media? Regardless of these facts, changes in this region will shape the future position of Polish mushroom industry. It is in Podlaskie, where the production of mushrooms is growing the fastest and it is there, where the biggest investments into area of cultivation are located. The biggest producers groups are working in a best way at this region. The location of Podlaskie is very favorable considering the market and this region has the greatest access to cheap labor, this is why it is the most competitive in relations to other countries of EU. However the amount of compost production is insufficient, what requires supply from other regions of Poland. But the amount of production of casing soil is larger than the local demand. Additional advantage of Podlaskie is employed people, they are diligent and resistant to difficulties, and they also have advanced skills in trading with the East.

In situation when new technologies are introduced the basic questions are: how will conservative local community manage the necessity of creating and using new technologies of production and will typical for peripheral regions trends of staying competitive by using cheap labor and imitating solutions introduced by other producers be preserved? Does it mean that preferable model of development will be the one using investments and innovations that are introduced somewhere else, as it successfully worked in a past? At present there are no actions towards creating new technologies in Podlaskie. Obtained additional financial resources are allocated for other purposes.

Why does functioning in existing now satellite mushroom production system does not allow development?

The reasons of lack of development in satellite mushroom production system, which dominates in Europe at present, are:

  • This system leads a market game with zero results. It doesn’t endeavor revenue growth and reduction of the costs of production by innovation, especially soft innovation. The game applies just too sharing profit between participants of the system (producers of raw materials, producers of mushrooms, suppliers of means of production, sales organizers). At present the improvement of production and keeping the profit level is done by investments increasing the production area. Permanent decrease of profits is a result of the continuing fixed prices of mushrooms and increasing costs of their production. This last phenomenon is counteracted by the industry by conducting promotional campaigns that support the growth of consumption of mushrooms. The goal is to induce growth of demand over supply, at the same time inducing growth of prices, for produced mushrooms. The effect of this situation is that interest in other actions concentrated on development is reduced.
  • Producers functioning in the satellite mushroom production system do not take independent actions in which the goal would be to create and adapt innovation, gain knowledge and raise their qualifications, because they do not want to bear the costs. So far information and training were given to producers in Europe for free from state or as a part of marketing strategy of producers of raw material. In mushroom industry information is not treated as a commodity, and sharing is considered a social mission. When state stopped being the source of information, and is not responsible for qualification of farmers, producers of mushrooms are having problems with navigating themselves on a market of information, ideas and technology. At the same time the creators of those information, ideas and technology treat them as a commodity. Besides, if new, effective technologies and innovations will be popularized slowly, the innovative profit for their creators will last longer and will be bigger.
  • The most of suppliers of raw materials are presently not interested in popularization of new technologies and innovations too. The reason for this is that they are afraid that new technologies and innovations could destroy the balance of the forces on the market. Transfer of information and counseling given by companies supplying raw material are a part of marketing and this determines the scope of their free offer.

Following question is essential: will the change of generations (that is undergoing right now) favor innovation of the mushroom industry in this field or will it favor growth and preserving the current model of production?

The location and people are not without significance. Poland, despite the size of its production and the position of the biggest exporter of fresh mushrooms in the world, is seen as a peripheral country that can only adapt innovations and not create them. It is the Dutch who are still considered the ones to create innovations and share them around the world.

Creating necessary technological innovations, especially in the field of automation of controlling the cultivation or using robots in production is the other issue here. There is no indication that this type of actions have been taken in Poland.

It is very important to answer the question how will the mushroom industry in Holland (which is the biggest competitor of Poland in production of mushrooms on fresh market) be developing? Will there be at least a partial transfer of production on fresh market from this country to Poland? Will other competitors arise, who will choose to use the same development mechanism and even cheaper labor?

Forecast of development

It can generally be assumed that present direction of change will be maintained. That means investments into bigger areas of cultivation. This situation could be maintained by introducing in more and more EU countries minimum wage on increasingly higher level. Presently and in the near future Polish minimum wage will stay on a level of 25% of minimum wage of countries which are the biggest consumers and producers of mushrooms in EU. As a result the market can still grow at the cost of local producers in the countries mushrooms are exported to. That means that Polish producers will reach the limit of demand, when 70% of production of mushrooms on fresh market will come from Poland.

Changing regulations about odors, crop failure of straw, arising of competitive market or invasion of pests or diseases can be considered the most important threats for the smooth functioning of the industry. Russian market collapse could only mean a temporary downturn.

Development by new technologies will accelerate during the time of crisis. However one shouldn’t expect it in times of prosperity.

Industrial production as a development factor

Industrial production can become essential factor of development of production of mushrooms on a fresh market. Following characteristics should determine this:

In my opinion popularization of innovation and new technologies can be much faster in companies that lead industrial production of mushrooms

The rules of industrial production

  1. Mini/max. Minimal dependence on nature and maximal control of the technological process
  2. Full cycle of production – from raw material to individual sales (including marketing).
  3. Effect of the scale
  4. Internal sources of development of technology, as building strategy of development.
  5. Management and organization focused on development.

Conclusion

The technological gap is a fact and it has opportunities to increase, not decrease. Because there are difficulties in creating and adapting soft innovations in satellite mushroom production system and there is no market pressure on reducing the costs of production, it is to be expected that implementation of new technologies will be on smaller scale and only in companies interested in moving towards industrial production of mushrooms. The main participants of the market in the satellite mushroom production system, in Poland and Holland as well, are not interested in changing the principles of functioning and leading in this system. The low costs of labor will encourage preservation of the present model of development.

Substrate and nutrition

At present technology of growing mushroom without phase I composting, developed by A.M. Slater, is considered the most promising solution. The purpose of this change is to eliminate the malodorous emissions from compost production. The basic raw material used in this production without malodorous emissions is cut corn stover. It is subjected to a process of pasteurization and incubation, and obtained as result compost undergoes the process of spawning and millet – produced strains of Scytalidium thermophilum are introduced. The main change of this technology in comparison to classical method of producing compost is renouncement of phase I, which helps with full elimination of the sources of malodorous emissions, mainly chicken manure. The rest of cultivation is not changed. Which means, that the main assumption – that growing of mushroom is a controlled process of its usage of substrate – stays unchanged? The question whether such prepared environment of nutrition of mushroom could be called a substrate remains open. From my point of view this solution could eliminate the problem of malodorous emissions, but doesn’t solve the problem of stagnation and changing yielding of mushroom on compost. It yet doesn’t answer the question of the ways of controlling compost’s abundance in nutrition available for mushroom. Cut corn stover is a structural part, being a carrier for spawn and, at the same time, serves as nutrition. The same is with straw compost and chicken manure. This means that the process of nutrition cannot still be controlled.

I myself think that other solution of a problem of substrate for mushroom (also with malodorous emissions reduction) is possible, under a new proposed paradigm – growing Mushroom is a controlled process of its nutrition. For this purpose a model of such substrate was made and is now being tested. First of all the goal is to achieve an answer on how does a nutrition process of Mushroom itself work. Only then, after collecting information about a process and conducting multiple tests on usefulness of different diets, it could be possible to build a new technology of growing under a new paradigm.

Available tests and changes in technology of growing mushroom on compost using crafted corn as a supplement allow indicating the key elements of new technology, which are:

  1. Control of the process of transfer from compost to spawn of mushroom of bigger doses of crafted corn in a process of recolonization. This allows to achieve essential improvement in yielding above those which are obtained from compost. It requires skillful control of balancing of water introduced to compost with increasing doses of crafted corn.
  2. It is confirmed that yield from the first and second flush depends on nutrients and water that are collected in spawn. The process of collecting, that is enzymatic decomposition of substrate (compost and supplement) done by enzymes produced in hyphae and transferred of achieved this way nutrients to ryzomorphic mycelium. This way an average yield in two flushes of 40 kg\m2 of fruiting bodies yearly can be achieved, maintaining the full welfare. Efficiency of third flush is relatively low. 5 kg\m2 of fruiting bodies is a still unbreakable barrier. In this situation collecting fruiting bodies of third flush can be treated as additional effect achieved without additional expenditures or one can just resign from it. In case of resignation from a third flush, the process of cold composting can be omitted.
  3. Mastery of effective control of the process of domination of pins and incubation of fruiting bodies with full maintenance of welfare means that the effects of change in the composition of substrate on achieved yield can be compared to yield achieved on compost with its own supplement (crafted minced corn) oscillating around the level of minimum 35 kg\m2 in two flushes and in then yielding in third and fourth flush on a level of minimum 5 kg\m2.

To get substrate without composting it is necessary to establish the list of assumptions, which it has to realize and a list of unanswered questions related to the process of nutrition. The questions arising from analysis of theoretical knowledge, constructed models and technology. Getting precise answers on established assumptions will not be possible due to lack of possibility to perform laboratory tests and also lack of precise statistical testing. The reason for this situation is that all the research is being made during the process of production and because of its pragmatic character. Undergoing works are an element of growth of a company which has limited resources on founding research and development. The main goal of this research is to answer the question about developing new technologies and not to explain why such effects of introduced changes occur.

Following assumptions were established:

  1. All the components used in the process of production will have to be biodegradable and will have to be a part of the circulation of organic matter in nature.
  2. All the components used will have to be a subject to standards related to food and feed of plant origin.
  3. New technology will not be using pesticides.
  4. The structural part will be separated from the part responsible for nutrition. Structural part will be responsible for keeping spawn’s position after incubation and not to change it after introduction of water to substrate. It is also responsible for gas exchange during the whole process of cultivation. The nutrition part will have to have balanced composition meeting the nutrition needs and planned yielding in the welfare.
  5. The water must be available during the process of transfer, covering the needs of cooling of the substrate and keeping the needed for the process of transfer temperature. The transfer of water and nutrients will be controlled.
  6. The period of transfer will be dependent of the amount of nutrients introduced during the time of recolonization. The bigger the dose of nutrients the longer the period of transfer.
  7. The components of substrate must be free of pathogens and will have to provide worse conditions for competitive mushrooms. They will have not to lure pests of mushroom, mainly diptera.
  8. In case of cultivating in three or more flushes, Scytalidium thermophilium must be introduced.
  9. The production process must not be dangerous to the environment and has to be the shortest as it is possible. The best solution is that the amount of time from the beginning of the process of production of substrate to the beginning of putting the casing soil and the start of recolonization lasts no longer than seven days.
  10. The substrate has to be much cheaper. Especially the usage of non-renewable energy in its preparation must be much lower.
  11. Used up substrate should still be suitable to be used in a production of mushroom or to other purposes. It will be best if it meets the requirement of sustainable production, especially that corn is used as a part of human diet and animal feed.

 Which hypothesis will be verified?

  1. Which nutrients do the mushroom collect form the substrate? Does it behave like an animal or a plant? If like a plant, does it mean that it needs – in relations to assimilation – reversed source of energy, carbon, minerals and oxygen, and the rest – proteins, fats, other nutrients and components regulating incubation and development – produces for itself. Or like an animal, there are some components like amino acids or vitamins that it cannot produce for itself and has to collect them from the substrate.
  2. Does Mushroom need monodiet and compost is the one? Does it, for example, need dead matter of mesophyll microflora, actinomycetes (humus complex)? Or is it an organism with a diversified diet and could feed on for example corn or potato starch, etc.? In other words, what is the range of opportunism of mushroom?
  3. Is crafted corn enough to achieve a planned goal of yield of 40 kg\m2 in two flushes? How much should be used, what groups, and how much water is needed during the process of transfer?
  4. How long will the period of transfer take? What are the signs of its end? How to control spawn’s need of water during the process of enzymatic decomposition and transfer to ryzomorphic mycelium? Would measuring the suction force be helpful in control of introduction of water to substrate?
  5. Is microflora needed in the process of nutrition, if yes what kind? Is it possible to produce a substrate in which the process of biosuppresion and commensalism would not be needed? Are they specific only for compost?
  6. Could spawn placed on a substrate produced without the process of composting (without rotting and pesticides) after the end of production is used as a component of human diet or could be used as animal feed? Every cell of mushroom, no matter where it is located has the same nutritional value. Is it true to spawn in substrate considering increased content of insoluble calcium oxalate?

Growth of Mushroom bisporus on corn stover colonized by thermophyllic fungi (Scytalidium thermophilum and Myrioccum thermophilum) and their influence on substrate selectivity. Amber Marie Slater; Daniel Joseph Royse; Schreyer Honors College, Pennsylvania State University, 2010.

12.2014 Summary

The primary purpose of a new approach to mushroom production is to develop a new mushroom cultivation technology. The implementation of this technology would allow the collection of a regular harvest of an average annual yield in three flushes at a minimum of 40 kg/m2 of high quality mushrooms, with the highest grade content not less that 95% and minimum 7-day marketable shelf life.  This goal should be achieved without any increase in the operating costs. The operating costs such as supplements, common salt, higher water amount, carbohydrates, and calcium chloride are included in the costs planned for protein supplements in an amount of up to 1.5% of the weight of the substrate phase III. This is accompanied by a reduction of production unit costs of one kilogram of mushrooms. It amounts to 10 – 20% and depends on the increase in the yield and reduces the amount of energy used in the production process that contains a microclimate control by changing production parameters.

The end of the test cycles and advancement of mushroom technology based on the new definition (as controlled feeding), allows summarizing the following facts regarding the mushrooms cultivation and making the first assessments regarding the proposed approach. They have been presented in 12 Reports.

Initially, this situation allows answer the question: Is the proposed collection of the most important concepts and statements on which the new technology is based on allows for better explanation (understanding) the production process, better system known facts and allows the development of new cultivation methods? The production practice will be answered if the obtained responses are correct and truthful with the actual situation.

Basic principles concerning the mushroom cultivation based on a controlled feeding application:

  1. The yield of the first and second flush of mushroom production depends on the mass of mycelium in the compost and the casing layer; the content of nutrients and water available during the phase of overgrowing the substrate, and its recolonization after the application of supplements. Recolonization plays an important role in a production cycle because it creates nutrient resources for the mushroom.
  2. Mycelium mass depends on the amount and type of available dead and organic matter that is a source of energy necessary for mushroom yielding (compost, supplement and water) and the process of its decomposition by the CAZy enzymes produced by mushroom mycelium.
  3. The water must be balanced with the applied supplement. The water should ensure the required temperature (without thermal effect) of the substrate during the entire cultivation period, efficient utilization of the supplement during the process of enzymatic digestion, transport of nutrients into the rhizomorphic mycelium and further to fruiting bodies and mushrooms.
  4. Water (free) applied into the compost during recolonization is utilized for the digestion of nutrients present in compost enhanced with the supplement and also transferred to the substrate. This process protects the substrate against decay despite the use of water doses significantly exceeding water capacity of the substrate and the supplement (50-70% of the fresh weight). Water shortage significantly decreases compost moisture when a supplement is provided and in result reduces the yield.
  5. Water availability during the feeding process needs to be controlled by measuring the suction force in a substrate and casing.
  6. Nutrients accumulated during the vegetative mycelium growth are used in the controlled process of initiation and growth of mushrooms to keep their well-being. Either stimulus or linear approach is used to changing the microclimate parameters. The stimulus approach is applied when the domination of the stronger and older fruiting bodies, and mushrooms over weaker and younger needs to be employed. It allows in the increase in number of harvested mushrooms and the control of their size at harvest. In contrast, linear approach, which introduces small but permanent changes in microclimate parameters, allows keeping a water shortage in the cultivation hall and providing the required evaporation of water from mushrooms and casing, essential for growth of fruiting bodies and mushrooms. Linear changes need to be implemented ahead of time to guarantee expected constant growth and increase of mushroom mass. Water evaporation from the mushrooms can not be faster than the transport of nutrients from the mycelium. It also applies to the casing layer because excessive evaporation results in water shortage and thus causes earlier spore production and loses of volume weight. To avoid high looses earlier harvesting is crucial.
  7. Planned changes of carbon dioxide content in a cultivation hall play a key role during the feeding process. Carbon dioxide concentration is very important during the process of growing fruiting bodies to provide an environment, which enhances a required shape of fruiting bodies (bulbous). To maintain an appropriate interval between generations of fruiting bodies it is also necessary to control the dominance of older fruiting and stronger bodies over the younger and weaker. At application of water dosage greater than 1% of a supplement dose, mycelium produces carbon dioxide at such a high level that it can be used for the control of growth of fruiting bodies and mushroom under conditions of balanced water. Increasing carbon dioxide concentration for a short time to very high levels can inhibit the growth of fruiting bodies and mushrooms.
  8. Higher air and substrate temperature is required during yielding. It is supposed to create more favorable conditions for increase of cell mass and cell membranes, and water in the cell. Throughout the harvesting period it is also required to maintain a constant temperature difference between the air and the substrate.
  9. Water shortage in the casing that results in mycelium decay decreases mushroom yielding due to reduction of mushroom mass and number of fruiting bodies in the following flushes. Weaken mycelium during water shortage is more sensitive to the development of dry bubble disease (or brown spot).
  10. Cultivation in the subsequent flushes should be carried out according to a feeding cycle assumption.
  11. Yield of the third flush depends on available nutrient ingredients being dissolved in water during cold composting and also during feeding through casing with utilization of carbohydrates. Quality of nutrient ingredients available during cold composting depends on Scytalidium thermophilum activity and feeding program. These postulations need further verification.

The presented statements are not conclusive yet and along with the development of technology, exploring new scientific facts and testing of developed models will get their final shape, especially with regard to the third flush.

The establishment of new idea and based on its technology and accompanying innovations allow for reflections on the course of hypothesis dissemination in the future. The question that is worth asking is the following: will dissemination spread out according to the theory of “diffusion of innovation” formulated by Rogers during the Internet era  (Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition Everett M. Rogers)? Or could this be controlled and deliberately disseminate the information? These questions should be addressed separately in relation to the ideas, technologies, and particular, single innovation. It seems that dissemination of the new idea and a single, simple innovation using the Internet can be efficient and quick. However, dissemination of new technology is much more difficult.  Overall, I think both the individual innovations that are a base for new technology, and the technology alone will be propagated very slowly during the era of satellite production system, which dominates in Europe today. The reasons are following:

–        A system runs a market game with a zero result. It does not aim at an increase in profits and decrease in expenses by implementation of new innovations, particularly soft innovations. The game refers to the distribution of profits between the participants in the system  (producers of materials, mushrooms, provision of the means of production, sales organizations). Currently, an increase in production and maintenance of the profit level occurs through investments escalating production area. Permanent reduction of income is due to the fixed prices of mushrooms at the rising costs of their production. The latter issue is being taken care of by running promotions that would increase mushroom consumption. It is supposed to result in the increasing demand that should be higher than supply and in consequences higher prices. .

–        Producers of mushrooms functioning in the satellite system do not take independent actions such as implementation of innovations, development of knowledge and skills, as they do not want to pay additional costs. So far, in Europe individual country or companies promoting their products provided information and trainings. The information is not in the commodity and dissemination is treated as a social mission. Mushroom producers do not find information, new ideas and technology easily available since when a country ceased to be a creator of information and is not any responsible for qualifications of producers. At the same time the creators treat them as a commodity. In addition, if new, efficient technologies and innovations are slower disseminated, the innovative annuity for producers manufacturers who implemented them, will be higher and obtained for a longer time.

–        Most of the producers of raw supplies are also not interested in the dissemination of new technologies and innovations. This results from a concern that new technologies and innovations might disrupt the current market situation. The transmission of information and counseling provided by the companies that provide supplies are part of marketing, and it determines the range of their free offer.

The place of their origin and the person creating them play a significant role. Poland, despite a large mushroom production and the largest exporter of fresh mushrooms in the world, is recognized as a peripheral country that can only assimilate innovations but cannot create them.  The Dutch are still considered as the only nation that is able to develop and disseminate new technologies.

In my opinion, the dissemination of innovations and new technology can be much faster in companies carrying industrial production of mushrooms.

Principles of industrial production

  1. Mini/max. Minimum dependence on nature and maximum control of technology.
  2. The full production cycle – from raw material to independent sale and marketing
  3. Effect of scale
  4. Internal sources of the development of both technology and strategy.
  5. Management and organization of pro-development.

So far there has not been work on the cultivation process that would include a reduced amount of compost and usefulness of strain from the group U-1 under the conditions of full coverage of nutritional requirements. Evaluating the cultivation process with a reduced compost amount has not been possible to perform due to the technical problems; lack of measures that would allow filling boxes with a substrate in an amount of 50-60 kg/m2. Work on the strain from a group of U-1 has not been carried out because of difficulties to obtain a commercial mycelium.

Within a month, I plan to present my views on the desirability and opportunities to create technologies for growing mushrooms without composting (currently compost in produced in the process of hot composting). This will complete the cycle presenting publications on this website.

11.2014 Harvest and utilization of compost

Harvest

Mushroom yield is dependent on mature mushroom harvest, i.e. method and organization of harvest under the conditions of fulfilling mushroom feeding requirements and the effective control of pinning and the growth of mushrooms. So then:

  • Mushrooms retain quality longer; therefore the harvesting is easier to organize. This requires the maintenance of an adequate rate of mushroom growth and high concentration of carbon dioxide throughout the harvesting season.
  • Harvesting mushrooms too early reduces the yield in accordance with the rule of 50% weight gain per day.
  • The role of thinning the fruiting bodies and the maintenance time between generations increases. The goal is to preserve the welfare of mushrooms and their dominance in reference to the principle that the stronger and older ones restrict the feeding of smaller and younger mushrooms. This significantly improves the quality.
  • It is very easy to loose the welfare in case of significant changes in microclimate, accelerating the growth of mushrooms caused by presence of collectors and the activities improving working conditions such as blowing cold air on the shoulders, dripping water from the humidification system, etc. The restoration of microclimate parameters is significant. Rapid changes usually cause excessive water evaporation; mushrooms are light and rust discolorations (rust spot) occur on mushroom caps due to water condensation after 2-3 days of storing in a cold room.
  • The first appearance of voids at the interface of the cap to the stipe is the beginning of the welfare loss. They can be seen when cut across mushroom cap. The second sign is a gradual loss of volume weight. The mushrooms are getting lighter and flat, and then a hollow in the middle is being formed.

Yields

At present yield sizes that can be achieved in each flush might be predicted.

  • First flush up to 23 kg/m2. It is assumed to be the maximum yield without quality loss.
  • Second flush up to 17 kg/m2. Further yield increase; yield similar to the first flush is planned to be obtained by increasing the dose of carbohydrate and water provided to the compost
  • Third flush up to 7 kg/m2 with prolonged duration up to 10 days. Solving problems with the transition to timely yielding and higher yields should allow further increase of the yields up to 10 kg/m2.

09.2014 Third flush problems

  • Fourth flush 5–7 kg/m2. It is necessary to improve feeding with easily digestible carbohydrates. Cultivation in the hall with a constant microclimate does not allow performing all activities required in the feeding cycle.

Presently an average weekly yield is about 40 kg/m2 and is higher on average by 5-10 kg/m2 than yields collected in the same production system (compost, casing) with protein supplements. Decreased yields during the spring season are due to difficulties of making good compost from very hard straw derived from the 2013 harvest. This situation is a very good time to test the technology based on the process of feeding mushrooms.

Compost utilization

A degree of compost utilization at obtained yield of 40 kg/m2 in three flushes and a load of 83-87 kg/m2 of compost, phase III is 46-48%. It did not exceed 50% but further conducted work should result in higher expected level.

Spent compost

Lack of diseases and pests, and very low sensitivity to further infection, and infestation by pests allows the completion of the production without disinfection. This practice has been carried out at the Chełkowski mushroom farm for years. This is due to the construction of cultivation halls. Non-steamed off used compost is a much better organic fertilizer than steamed off compost. The reuse of compost is a separate issue. The microbiological purity and the development of appropriate technology is the basic requirement for re-using it.

10.2014 Control of the behavior of fruiting bodies and primordia

The observations from last summer and the past winter concerning the behavior of fruiting bodies and primordia on a substrate enriched with corn meal that would guarantee to achieve the planned yield, were the starting point for a debate regarding the control of the microclimate.

The basic observations are:

  1. The size and quality of yields collected during the summer were close to the prognoses. At that time the standard microclimate parameters could not be maintained, thus the standard microclimate conditions could not be created either. The application of higher amounts of water into the substrate was required, as this would reduce thermal effect. Yielding proceeded at higher substrate and air temperatures, air humidity, and a higher concentration of carbon dioxide along with significantly faster air movement.
  2. During winter, upon implementation of the standard microclimate parameters and generally accepted principles of its configuration and reduced dose of water applied in the compost, decreases in the yield and quality of mushrooms were recorded. The yield decrease corresponded to a dose of supplement i.e. higher doses of supplement resulted in larger yield reduction.
  3. At the end of winter, the „summer” microclimate parameters and stimulus changes of selected elements of microclimate, especially the concentration of carbon dioxide (at the level of several thousand ppm) were introduced. This resulted in the return of yielding to the level of 35 kg/m2 in two flushes, while maintaining the welfare of fruiting bodies in the first flush.
  4. During the second flush, the introduction of the summer microclimate parameters resulted in extraordinary pinning without distinction of generations. Despite a satisfactory yield, the need for thinning of fruiting bodies and the high cost of harvesting of small primordia forced the search for the procedure that would allow reproducing generations. A significant differentiation of microclimate parameters that were introduced from few to several hours, in order to stimulate and inhibit fruiting bodies turned out to be a good solution. This effect was achieved by the utilization of different susceptibility of fruiting bodies „strong” and weak (the phenomenon of dominance) to these changes.
  5. Problems in the third flush occurred despite an improvement in the first and second flush yielding.

Conclusions based on the comparison of microclimate and yield between summer and winter:

  1. The overall fulfillment of nutritional needs changed the approach to the effect of the quality of used products (mainly compost) on the yield of mushrooms. The yield depends on the capability of the control of feeding of primordia and balancing the nutritional and water requirements. This implies the necessity to disregard a creation of microclimate parameters as the goalalone. This illustrates the willingness of recreation regarding their course in accordance to the published graphs. Also, an attempt to find one universal solution that would allow creating the microclimate, which repetition in other halls could provide a reproducible yield reflects the same approach as the development of microclimate.
  2. Controlling the mushroom feeding requires precise selection of parameters and/or their combinations as well as their modification in behavior of fruiting bodies and primordia in regards to the change that is expected. These actions must be undertaken from few to several hours before the expected change can occur, mainly in regards to a growth rate of fruiting bodies and primordia in correlation to their number per unit of casing surface in comparison to a current status and expected change. Possibilities of controlling the required parameters by using air conditioning and air movement in production hall should be taken into account, as this would allow controlling the growth of fruiting bodies and primordia. Controlling mushroom feeding by changing microclimate parameters is very effective however; it is not an easy practice.

On the other hand, changes in the microclimate after the occurrence of unfavorable effects, for instance dying out of fruiting bodies, tension membrane under the cap, rupture of stipes, water-soaked spots on the surface and water excess in the fruiting bodies that shorten shelf life, and also flat fruiting bodies with a cavity, a small bulk density, etc., can only further destabilize the expected behavior of mushrooms.

Providing high, stable yields of good quality, under conditions of full coverage of nutritional requirements and control of feeding process requires the development of a separate model of control during the course of mushroom cultivation.

The controlling process includes two stages:

1)      Differentiation of fruiting body generations and small primordia in each flush in accordance with the principle of diversified growth rate of fruiting bodies of first, second and third generation as well as the stronger and weaker.

2)      Maintenance of the growth rate of fruiting bodies in accordance with the process of nutrient transport allowing maintaining welfare (white, shaped fruiting body of high bulk density). Bothgrowth too fast and too slow will worsen the welfare; quality and weight of fruiting bodies. This causes an obstruction between the absorption of water from the casing, transport of nutrients, and weight gain (quality, cell mass and cell membranes). This is the principal mechanism applied in the production process that consists mainly of weakening growth rate by evaporation of water from the surface of fruiting bodies.

Initial assumptions of the control model of the behavior of fruiting bodies and primordia under full nutrient coverage, balanced with accessible water, the nutritional requirements of mushrooms require a new tool that would be able to provide:

  1. An equal movement of air at any place above the casing (micro-sensor system air flow).
  2. A range of measurement of carbon dioxide to 12 000 ppm will be increased. It is worthy to mention that under the conditions of balanced nutritional requirements of mushrooms that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the cultivation hall raises easily.
  3. Measuring the diameter of growth of fruiting bodies with a camera that would further allow the analyzing of the image.
  4. Measurement of life activity of fruiting bodies and primordia by controlling the temperature difference between the casing and fruiting bodies and primordial, and among fruiting bodies and primordia with the thermographic camera.
  5. Measuring the amount of applied and evaporated water by continuous measurement of the weight of the separated section of the crop.
  6. Integration of these variables measurements with the developed algorithm regarding the control of behavioral changes of fruiting bodies and primordia.

It is essential to develop a control algorithm. Observations of mushroom behavior under conditions of complete feeding indicate the need to take into account the following changes occurring between the microclimate and the fruiting bodies and primordia, and in particular:

  1. The influence of stimulus and the changing of the direction of the linear course of microclimate parameters. At phases regarding the differentiating of fruiting bodies and small primordia, small changes of microclimate with considerable variation are required, but for a period of few or several hours in order to give an effect of stimulus – behavioral change. During fruiting, when the course of the parameters should be linear, it is necessary to periodically change the direction (vector) in order to maintain the desired growth rate through a small variation of microclimate parameters with prediction and monitoring the pace and direction of changes. This is to guarantee a transport of nutrients coordinated with the propagation and growth of cells and their walls at the rate imposed by the level of evaporation.
  2. The stimulation of excessive growth of primordia causes intense evaporation and accelerates the transition of primordia to the production of spores. It results in stopping weight increase; flattening and opening of primordia.
  3. Higher temperature of air and substrate. The use of the principle that the rate of life processes increases by 10% as geometric progression at an increase of temperature by 1 ° C. During the growth of primordia the temperature is 19-20 ° C and the substrate up to 23 ° C.
  4. Not increasing the temperature difference between the air and the substrate. Keeping control of the substrate temperature during yielding is dependent on the water content in the mycelium and the substrate.
  5. Increasing the role of carbon dioxide concentration. To maintain the welfare of fruiting bodies a concentration at the level of 2500 to 3500 ppm is required and for some varieties it may be higher. However, to inhibit the growth of fruiting bodies and small primordia, the carbon dioxide concentration at a level close to 8-10 000 ppm is efficient. In addition, it is required to monitor the shape of the bulbous fruiting bodies.
  6. Maintaining a constant water shortage, and not the level of air humidity in the hall cultivation.

Summary

Balancing the nutritional needs in accordance to water requirements and with the expected yield does not automatically guarantee success. The system of control of density of primordia, their weight increases at a constant preservation of their welfare needs to be implemented. Controlling the growth of fruiting bodies and primordia is a significant part of the new approach. Balancing the supplement with water is relatively simple, but it determines the further expected course of cultivation. The current knowledge about the control of feeding is the result of practical measures. It will require a broader analysis, based on scientific data and, in consequences, the development of a new algorithm and the tool allowing independently and effectively control the growth of fruiting bodies and primordia through changes in microclimate parameters.

The initiation of primordia is an independent issue, which requires a separate discussion.