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Cultivation Corner: Cultivation IV

Pests and Diseases Plus Culture Maintenance

Pests and Diseases: Once you have gotten to the stage of mushroom production, you will now be faced with a continuing battle with pests and diseases. Among the pests, you will find insects, mites and nematodes.

Among the diseases and competitors, you will find many fungi and bacteria. [Note: The author believes that an organic approach to mushroom cultivation and pest control is best. He feels that proper growing conditions and good strain selection can produce healthy, robust mushrooms that resist disease and invasion by pests. He does not recommend the use of copper salts, fungicides or other pesticides. The use of these poisons can be avoided by proper composting and maintaining proper growing conditions. Information on the use of pesticides is provided because of their proven efficacy, reference within the mushroom culture literature, and common use by the commercial mushroom agricultural industry.] Most pests can be avoided by well done, clean composting. It is impossible to over emphasize the importance and benefits of strict adherence to tidiness and sanitation of the work area and continued attention to the cleanliness of the growing areas.

The compost should be constructed on a cement slab, or by some means kept from direct contact with the earth; sheets of plywood, plastic pools, flattened van tops can all serve as a barricade to soil bacterial and fungal contaminants and competitors, and help to minimize invasion of the compost by insects and other pests.

Peak heating of the compost will eliminate most fungal problems and insure that you start your cultivation with a medium free of insects. The addition of 1 lb. of copper sulfate per ton of compost will help prevent those diseases not killed by peak heating. Zineb is a selective fungicide that is often used.

Bacterial problems are generally a result of the combination of too high a humidity with a lack of adequate ventilation. The mushroom caps must be allowed to dry after (between) misting/sprayings or bacterial contamination can result. Sometimes a weak (2%) chlorox solution will help in extreme cases.

Insect pests can be a constant source of irritation. Everything within ones' power should be done to prevent insects' access to growing rooms. Diazon can be used as a dust on casing for mites and flies. Malathion can also be used but tends to cause pinhead abortion when sprayed. Fly paper and bug lights may be helpful for those of us wishing to avoid the use of chemical insecticides but where there are flies in the air, there are larva in the mushrooms and/or medium. The use of diatomaceous earth in the casing layer can be attempted as a preventative approach to larva infestation. The immediate removal of contaminated boxes is highly recommended.

Partial Bibliography:

Mushroom Growing Today, by F.C. Atkins and Mushroom Growing for Everyone, by Roy Genders; both have fairly good chapters describing the pests, competitors, and diseases, although both books rely on heavy applications of chemical pesticides to control these problems. The Mushroom Cultivator, by Paul Stamets and J.S. Chilton devotes a large section to the description, causes and prevention of the contaminants and pests of mushroom culture. Stamets reports the use of tree frogs for insect control in his growing rooms in Washington State. Again, it should be stated: Most pests can be avoided by well done, clean composting. It is impossible to over emphasize the importance and benefits of strict adherence to tidiness and sanitation of the work area and continued attention to the cleanliness and environmental conditions (humidity and ventilation) of the growing areas.

Maintenance of Cultures:

Cultures can be stored on agar plates or slants, sterilized grain, or sterilized compost. Sometimes the cultures are submerged under sterilized mineral oil. The stored cultures are generally refrigerated and can be kept viable for years.


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