Spawns: The Colonization Of Mushrow

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Mushrooms are fungi that decompose and absorb the nutrients of nonliving organic material1. The best substrate for mushroom growth depends on the species. According to mycologist Tom Volk, Agaricus bisporus (the edible white button mushroom) grows well in wheat straw and horse manure, but other composted ingredients are also used2.
Mushroom grow bags and mushroom spawn are available for online purchase. The grow bags include a sterile compost colonized with mushroom mycelium (a mass of hyphae) in a plastic bag. These are typically purchased by consumers who want to grow edible mushrooms at home. The spawn (mycelium propagated on a sterile cereal grain) is typically purchased by commercial mushroom growers2.
On mushroom farms, a suitable compost
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It is a layer of organic material (above the compost) that stimulates the initiation of primordia3. It supports the emerging primordia, but does not supply nutrients to the fungus. Mushroom farmers place a casing material (such as peat moss) over the compost to induce fruiting after the compost is colonized with mycelium.
Volk reports that commercial growers maintain the air temperature at approximately 24ºC until the mycelium has colonized the compost and grown through the casing layer. Then, the temperature is dropped to 16-18ºC to promote pinning2.
Since I eat white button mushrooms, I thought it would be interesting to make white button mushroom grow bags and a spore solution. For the grow bags, I used FoodSaver® bags (normally used to vacuum seal food in a home kitchen) and a store-bought compost containing horse manure. For the spore solution, I used a store bought mushroom.
My hypothesis was that sterilized compost in a FoodSaver® bag would yield more Agaricus bisporus than non-sterilized compost in a FoodSaver® bag. The independent variable for this experiment was the sterilization of the compost. The dependent variable was the number of mushrooms grown. I reasoned that sterilization would eliminate other decomposers competing for nutrients in the compost, making it more favorable medium for white button mushroom growth.

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