Colonized substrate that contains sufficient volumes of water and nutrient ingredients will not guarantee high yields if casing does not support the feeding process. Several performed tests followed by the implementation of the concept regarding controlled mushroom feeding provided data that lead into the conclusions describing conditions that are required so that casing will not decrease expected yields. It is obvious that the casing must have a uniform composition and structure, and should be evenly applied; not higher than 5 cm. The intense production requires medium or heavy casing. Light casing is not recommended due to its low water holding capacity. The specific requirements supporting the process of feeding besides water holding capacity are the following:
- Water shortage can not occur between casing application and end of the production process. Casing should be “shiny”, not matt. Water deficit causes mycelium drying and fruiting bodies, and in consequence a considerably decrease in the number of fruiting bodies particularly in the second and third flush. Water shortage worsens the quality of fruiting bodies, deprives their color and reduces yield by decreasing unitary weight: fruiting bodies are light. The mycelium should be white and alive on the casing surface during the entire production period. The addition of water into casing is easy, despite the growth stage of fruiting bodies irrigation will not worsen their quality as their nutritional requirements are fulfilled and their growth is controlled.
- Dry bubble disease (or brown spot) develops more intense on weakened and yellow mycelium.
- The casing must have a much higher salinity that is presently recommended and maintained, and it should be sustained at the same level throughout the entire period of cultivation. Appropriate salinity improves the quality of fruiting bodies and the yield by an increase of their mass and also pinning during flush is easier and more reproducible. Under these conditions the fruiting bodies are not exposed to short-term retention of their growth and respond better to activities aiming at the development of different generation stages. The salinity can easily be controlled, as there is a method, which allows taking direct measures from the casing. Effects of stable and higher salinity on mushroom yields in the third and fourth flush are expected.
- Stable calcium content. Research studies indicate a significant role of calcium in the feeding. The performed tests confirm the usefulness of calcium chloride in the feeding process. First, the pH should be stabilized as its decrease can enhance a risk of green mold occurrence on the casing surface in the third and following flushes. It is probably easier to fulfill calcium requirements of fruiting bodies if its source is provided in the casing. The transport time is shorter than that from the substrate. Besides, often application of calcium chloride induces a reaction with concrete and causes sealing concrete pores. This significantly reduces the risk of survival of spores of causal agent of dry bubble disease, as the concrete is the main source of infection within the cultivation hall.
So far the individual tests with the two-layer casing were performed. The collected results indicate that it might be a potential useful solution. An application of a hydrogel filled with liquid nutrients is a new idea that will be soon examined. This should create conditions supporting more sufficient colonization of the casing and better connection of mycelium with the substrate, and also shorten transport of components into fruiting bodies and primordia.