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King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 2/3)

In Part 1 of this 3 Part Series we discussed the ways in which scientific studies have shown Pleurotus tuber-regium to aid and help with cancer.

Part 2 will take a deep dive into one of the most prolific diseases of our current generation. 


Diabetes is a disorder that renders the body incapable of dealing with its own glucose load. While there are many ways in which a person can reach the point of being diabetic, one thing is common among them all – diabetes is not fun! Diabetes leads to impaired wound healing, improper weight maintenance, the need to supplement with medication on a daily basis, and an overall decreased quality of life. India is currently the diabetes capital of the world with over 70 million diabetics in the country as of 2019. An increase in packaged and processed foods along with sedentary lifestyles and carbohydrate-laden Indian diets have been heavy contributors to this rise. 

India diabetes prevalence

Part 2: Diabetes

Pleurotus tuber-regium for diabetes

Many laboratories around the world have been looking towards mushrooms as a potential tool to reduce the rates of diabetes occurrence.
Mushrooms contain a wide variety of bioactive molecules that can contribute towards a healthier physiology

In 2012 researchers from Taipei investigated the effects of Pleurotus tuber-regium polysaccharide extracts on rats that were made diabetic. The rats were injected with a drug called streptozotocin. This compound is particularly toxic to pancreatic beta cells which are responsible for the production and secretion of insulin in a normal body. The loss of insulin-producing cells pushed the mice toward diabetes. The mice were also fed a high-fat diet which further enhanced their diabetes. 

Polysaccharides were extracted from P. tuber-regium with hot water and precipitated with ethanol. The purified polysaccharides were administered to the diabetic rats every day for 8 weeks and The rats were monitored for weight gain and other common clinical signs of diabetes such as oral glucose tolerance, Hba1c levels, and serum insulin. To their surprise, the polysaccharide-treated rats gained less weight on high-fat diets when compared to untreated mice. Furthermore, the polysaccharide-treated rats also had higher insulin levels, lower Hba1c, and better glucose tolerance. The polysaccharide-treated rats it seemed were less diabetic.

Pleurotus tuber-regium versus fat

With some positive indications, the investigators delved deeper into the body weight mystery. They measured common health markers such as serum triglycerides and cholesterol levels. These circulating fats are bad for cardiovascular health when they stay abnormally high for many years together. Surprisingly the researchers found that the polysaccharide treatments also resulted in lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels indicating that the polysaccharides were possibly affecting fat distribution in the body as well. This could explain the lower weight gains observed in the polysaccharide-treated rats.

In an extension to the above study, the scientific team looked at how the liver was affected by the polysaccharide treatment. The liver is at the center of many metabolic pathways, including cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism. Since the polysaccharides were affecting the serum cholesterol and triglycerides, the liver was an obvious place to take a deeper look. They discovered that a protein named PPAR-⍺ was more prevalent in the livers of the polysaccharide-treated rats. PPAR-⍺ increases the expression of genes responsible for fat metabolism. The polysaccharides were able to stimulate the metabolism of fats in the liver thus resulting in lower triglyceride levels. 

Combo, that works!

The high fiber content in P. tuber-regium extracts and whole mushrooms should not be ignored when considering these effects. Soluble dietary fiber is known to reduce fat and cholesterol absorption in the intestine. The lower absorption of fats combined with the increased metabolic activity of the liver together could have reduced the metabolic burden on the diabetic rats. The extracts are also rich in flavonoids which have strong antioxidant properties. These antioxidants can reduce damage to cells and in particular may have aided in the survival of the pancreatic beta cells. 

So what does this mean?

So how is this information really relevant to us?

There is no evidence that states that the use of such extracts in diabetic patients will have similar effects. However consuming foods rich in antioxidants and fibers have been shown to aid in healthy aging. Diabetes in most cases is a result of metabolism going bad. When we are young and relatively active, our body is more capable of dealing with the stresses of daily life. As time progresses, the accumulating stress overcomes the natural defenses the body has and pushes it towards a disease state. By aiding the body’s fight against the disease state, health span increases even if lifespan does not. In fact, it has been shown that chronic high-fat diets lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Tackling the issue from the onset can help offset this pathway and may even prevent it. 

Low serum triglycerides and cholesterol are important indicators of good cardiovascular health. It is most often cholesterol and triglycerides that end up being deposited in the small arterioles and venules of our bodies. The deposits eventually block these capillaries and can lead to what is commonly known as heart attacks, thromboses, or strokes depending on where they occur. By reducing fat absorption, high-fiber diets help support cardiovascular health. By preventing the build-up of sludge, flavonoids keep our capillaries healthy. 

Biochemical analysis of P tuber regium fruiting bodies showed that they are rich in proteins, fibers, and carbohydrates and low in fats. Carbohydrates in this case do not equate to glucose since the carbohydrates here refer more to complex carbohydrates and will not contribute to the glucose load as much as starch prevalent in many other vegetables. These mushrooms also contain all of the essential amino acids making them a complete source of protein. Obese and diabetic rats fed with dried and powdered P. tuber-regium had similar serum lipid profiles to rats treated with the antidiabetic drug Glibenclamide. 

  1. tuber-regium is a unique mushroom that has been used by traditional communities for hundreds of years to help treat various ailments. Are they truly medicinal, we can’t say for sure. They sure are delicious though!

Stay tuned for the final part of this series!

References

Ikewuchi, Catherine Chidinma et. al. 2017. “Restoration of plasma markers of liver and kidney functions/integrity in alloxan-induced diabetic rabbits by aqueous extract of Pleurotus tuberregium sclerotia”. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy.  DOI:10.1016/j.biopha.2017.09.075

Huang, Hui-Yu et. al. 2012. “Pleurotus tuber-regium Polysaccharides Attenuate Hyperglycemia and Oxidative Stress in Experimental Diabetic Rats”. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. DOI:10.1155/2012/856381

Huang, Hui-Yu et. al. 2014 “Effect of Pleurotus tuber-regium Polysaccharides Supplementation on the Progression of Diabetes Complications in Obese-Diabetic Rats”. Chinese Journal of Physiology. DOI:10.4077/CJP.2014.BAC245

Onuekwuzu, Ifeanacho et. al. M 2019. “Anti-Diabetic Effect of a Flavonoid and Sitosterol – Rich Aqueous Extract of Pleurotus tuberregium Sclerotia in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rabbits”. Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Disorders – Drug Targets. DOI:10.2174/1871530319666190206213843

Lin, Shaoling et. al. 2021. “Research on a Specialty Mushroom (Pleurotus tuber-regium) as a Functional Food: Chemical Composition and Biological Activities”. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. DOI:10.1021/acs.jafc.0c03502

Adeyi, Akindele Oluwatosin et. al. 2021. “Pleurotus tuber-regium inclusion in diet ameliorates dyslipidaemia in obese-type 2 diabetic rats”. Clinical Phytoscience. DOI:10.1186/s40816-021-00321-0

 Tyagi, Sandeep et. al.  2011. “The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor: A family of nuclear receptors role in various diseases”. Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology and Research. DOI:10.4103/2231-4040.90879

Lattimer, James M. and Haub, Mark D. 2010. “Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health”. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu2121266

10 Things you need to know to have a profitable mushroom business in India

When we were starting our journey, we were completely new to the mushroom space and hardly knew anything about cultivating them. We took up mushroom cultivation because it seemed like something that could meet our goals- sustainable, profitable and scalable. If you want to know more about us and why we do what we do, please check out our About us page.

Our journey into the Indian mushroom cultivation space was far from smooth and had a lot of ups and downs. The important thing is that we made it this far and have figured out a lot of interesting things on the way which would have saved us a lot of time, effort and money if we knew it earlier.

This blog post is our way of passing on some important bits and pieces of information that we have acquired in our journey so that beginners don’t have to go through all the trouble we did.

 

  1.     Choose your mushroom well

Each mushroom comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, some are easy to grow and grow really fast, others can fetch you a lot more money but they might be quite challenging and expensive to cultivate. You have to ask yourself a few questions which will help you find the mushrooms best suited to your requirements. Here are some questions that you can think about: 

  • How much time and money am I willing to invest in this business? 
  • How long can I wait before each harvest? 
  • Which mushrooms are best suited for the climate around me? 
  • Do I want to grow mushrooms seasonally or throughout the year? 
  • Can I find the raw materials required to grow the mushrooms around me in an economical way?  

Mushrooms are not just what you see in the supermarket, they are also ingredients in various different industries such as food and beverage industry, nutraceuticals and functional foods, personal care, retail etc and are consumed in different forms – whole dry mushrooms, dry mushroom powder, fresh mushrooms, mushroom extract etc. When choosing your mushroom, you also need an understanding of where all it can be used and in what all forms.

Flushes of oyster mushrooms

Most trainers and courses will recommend Oyster mushrooms as a good mushroom to start with. They are not wrong but they aren’t completely right either. Yes, Oyster mushrooms are really easy to grow and they are quite forgiving of our mistakes. If you dig deeper, you will find that they have a really short shelf-life of 2-3 days from harvest. To make matters worse you will also realize that there is hardly any demand for them in the Hotels/Restaurants/Café sector because of their unpopularity among Indians. All the above factors make oyster mushrooms a not-so-good candidate for large-scale farms. You might be tempted to grow Button mushrooms because the demand for them is high but you cannot cultivate them without a climate-controlled setup (unless your local weather conditions are suitable) since they need temperatures between 16-19 degrees Celsius for it to fruit. So, please consider all angles before you choose which mushrooms to grow. Don’t just follow trends, take time to understand what has demand in your area and what can be grown easily.

  1.     Understand the market

Once you have chosen which mushroom to cultivate, you have to study the local market for the same in-depth. You will have to find out before-hand which are the industries and channels that are currently using your mushroom and at what volumes and at what price. Try and talk to others in the same business if possible, to understand challenges that they might have faced. Make sure that you factor in things like ease of transportation and cost of packaging while you choose which channels to focus on. Understanding the market also means understanding the pain-points of the existing market so that you are better equipped at dealing with them. This step is very critical to ensure you succeed because without understanding the market you will not know how to position yourself or how to market your finished product.

  1.     Develop your own market

After you have done an in-depth study of the market, you have all your facts and figures ready. Some questions to ponder at this stage are: 

  • Which segments of the market can you realistically satisfy?
  • What can you do to make your product stand out from the local competition?
  • Some retailers require you to give them a fixed quantity on a daily basis, can your production meet those demands? 
  • What resources do you need to satisfy the capacity you have settled on? 

Remember, you can always start small and scale up. For example: to get a feel of the fresh mushroom market start by selling to close friends and family or to your neighbors, to create your own loyal client base. You could even drop off samples at restaurants nearby and ask the chefs to give your mushrooms a try. Figure out what matters most to them (The freshness? Value for money? Packaging? Aesthetics?) and in the process learn how to best satisfy your customer. The easiest strategy would be to work with a few customers in such a way that you have forward orders for your harvest. You are ensuring that you have a ready market for your produce so that you can put all your energy and attention into cultivating high quality mushrooms in a way that your customers love them.

  1.     Get the right training

This step is extremely crucial and the step which we here at Nuvedo had a hard time with. When we were starting out, we could hardly find any courses (both online and offline) which seemed legitimate. The courses were either too basic and lacked scientific explanation behind the processes involved or promised far too much to seem realistic – like lifetime support on cultivation and timely updates on technical advancements in cultivation for a fee of INR 750? I don’t think so! 

In our experience, we found that a lot of trainers were ex-mushroom cultivators themselves but turned away from cultivation and towards training because it was more lucrative. I don’t think that this is a good sign. If you’re getting trained make sure that it is under someone who either has a successful mushroom cultivation up and running or from a reputed consultant with a proven track record. We here at Nuvedo offer multiple avenues for different experience levels and requirements- starting from our DIY Mushroom growing kit for beginners to advance hands-on courses for specific mushrooms. Check out our Workshops section to stay up to date with our latest in-person workshops..

  1.     Have a trusted vendor for spawn and raw materials

Once you have had some basic training and experience growing your first batch of mushrooms, you need to figure out how to get quality inputs for cultivation. The most critical input in ensuring you get a profitable yield is having good and reliable spawn. Without good spawn, you are bound to fail. You have two options: either 1) make your own spawn, which is time consuming and involves considerable effort or 2) buy it from a vendor, which might be a bit risky. When looking for vendors, make sure you find vendors who give you at least generation 2 spawn and have a hygienic and standardized setup with documented results. In India, getting high quality spawn can be a challenge because of lack of regulations or standards in the industry. If you want to ensure that what you’re paying for is of the quality that they promise, you can go through our in-depth blog on spawn. We here at Nuvedo have our own super spawn- NuvoSpawn, which is manufactured in our lab using the latest technology and best quality ingredients. We have documented the conditions in which our spawn performs best, so that you can get best yields each and every time. To know more about what spawn is and how it is used please visit our Spawn FAQ.

Apart from spawn, ensure that you have a steady source of substrate material that is available locally and at a cost that makes sense for your profitability goals. Different substrates can have varying effects on yield and quality of the mushrooms that you grow. If you want to know more about the effect that different substrates and techniques can have on your yield and quality, do check out our DIY Mushroom Growing Kit. As part of the kit, we provide an information pamphlet with various different substrate recipes along with a table to track your progress. The pamphlet contains basic definitions and even some formulas to calculate biological efficiency, hydration etc. 

  1.     Prepare yourself for failure

Making one grow bag of Oyster mushrooms during training doesn’t prepare you well enough for the challenges that you will face while handling a bigger operation. Most people fail in the beginning when they try cultivating mushrooms at a commercial scale because there are too many variables involved and it is extremely hard to standardize the whole process. So, make sure that you are mentally prepared to accept failure. Your strategy should be- fail small and fail fast, so that you learn from your mistakes quickly and they don’t cost you so much money. You have to ensure that you document every single step so that you have evidence of what worked and what did not. This will allow you to finetune your entire process and develop standard operating procedures for each step. Standardizing your process and steps involved is critical to ensure that you can reproduce your results every time.

  1.     Start Small and scale up

Your trainers or consultants might tempt you to go for a 100 Ton setup and you might be tempted to do so after your successful oyster grow but always start small. Start at a capacity where you are confident that you have a ready market for whatever it is that you produce. Once you have mastered the art of cultivating at a small or intermediate capacity then you can confidently invest money in the right places to increase your capacity and scale up production. Remember, selling mushrooms can be harder than growing them, so ensure that you have a ready market before you decide to scale up production. Starting small will allow you to make changes to your layout or process flow without incurring large losses. 

  1.     Build a larger ecosystem of cultivators in your area

Like any other business, mushroom cultivation can fall prey to a lot of issues which can affect your turnover. Drastic changes in weather, contaminated spawn, equipment failure, labor shortage etc. can negatively impact your business. This is why it is important for you to ensure that you have a network of mushroom cultivators in your locality who can help you in case of emergencies like equipment failure or loss of cultures due to contamination etc. We at Nuvedo take pride in saying that we work closely with all our community members in ensuring that they succeed. Nuvedo gives its network of cultivators access to documented cultivation techniques, new advancements in cultivation technologies and also a list of our trusted vendors across the mushroom cultivation ecosystem. Nuvedo also has a group of highly trained and experienced professionals who help our customers troubleshoot and get the best possible output from their cultivation unit. We cannot thank our community members enough for all the support they’ve provided us on our journey so far. 

  1.     Think about other streams of revenue

Apart from just cultivating and selling fresh mushrooms it helps to have other streams of indirect revenue coming in. For example, dehydrating and maintaining an inventory of dried mushrooms, making value added products from your mushroom such as pickles, soup powders, cookies etc. These additional sources of income ensure that you can protect yourself from market disruptions and other influences beyond your control. In the hypothetical case that the price or demand for fresh mushrooms drops in your locality, you now have the option of drying them and using them in your value-added products. With India still reeling in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is critical now more than ever to diversify your business into multiple streams of revenue so that you can keep your business safe from external challenges.

  1.   Keep learning and share your knowledge

Mushroom cultivation is a fairly new space and there are lots of technological advancements being discovered on a daily basis. It is important to keep updating our knowledge on the latest developments in the field of fungiculture so that we can continuously improve the quality and output of our cultivation unit. It is equally important to share whatever knowledge we have with others in the mushroom ecosystem so that the whole community can develop and better serve the market. In today’s day and age the most successful companies keep much of their information open source as they know the importance that sharing the right knowledge can have on the larger business ecosystem. Investing time and resources in keeping yourself up to date and in innovation has a very large payoff in the long run. We here at Nuvedo, live by the philosophy “A thousand candles can be lit from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened” . So go on and spread the spores of knowledge far and wide so that at least some of them can fruit when the conditions are right. 

 

King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 1/3)

Pleurotus tuber regium. The King Tuber Oyster Mushroom. This warm-weather mushroom has long been revered for its medicinal properties in parts of Western Africa, China and North East India. As the only sclerotium-forming member of the Pleurotus genus, it is unique in its ability to store nutrients for a rainy day. Here is a 3 part series taking a look at 3 diseases that this wonderful mushroom can protect you from.

 

In Part 1, we will refrain from fixating on the evolutionary wonders of the sclerotia but instead, look to them as sources of medicinal compounds. In particular, we will investigate some existing evidence relating the sclerotial extracts to antitumor or anticancer properties.

Part 1: Cancer

Beta-glucans as active molecules

Our journey begins at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where Peter Cheung and colleagues made use of hot alkaline water to extract polysaccharides from the sclerotia of P. tuber-regium. Polysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules such as glucose that are connected to each other through chemical bonds. These polysaccharides are important structural components of every fungal cell. In their study, the researchers chose to focus primarily on the long and branched polysaccharide molecules known as beta-glucans.

Representative structure of a beta glucan with (1->3) and (1->6) glycosidic linkages

The researchers used two commonly used cancer cell lines to test the effects of their beta-glucan extracts. HL-60 cells are derived from a patient suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a form of blood and bone marrow cancer that is also the most common form of such cancer in adults. When they treated the cells with their beta-glucan extracts, they noticed that the outer membranes of the cells became more porous. A blue dye called Trypan blue which is normally kept out of the cancer cells by the cell membrane was able to enter the cells and stain them blue. This indicated that the extracts were able to disrupt the integrity of the cell membrane of the leukemia cells. 

HL-60 Cell Line picture
HL-60 Cell Line

To verify whether the extracts could work on other forms of cancer, the researchers used another cancer cell line called HepG2 cells. HepG2 cells are derived from hepatocellular carcinoma (a form of liver cancer) and are commonly used to screen drugs for toxicity and study liver cancer. When these cells were treated with the P. tuber regium beta glucan extracts their metabolic activity decreased. A decrease in metabolic activity indicates stressed, dying, or non-functional cells. This indicated that the P. tuber regium beta-glucan extracts had a negative effect on the HepG2 cells as well.

Hep G2 - Wikipedia
Hep G2 cell

At this point, an obvious question that the researchers had to answer was whether the adverse effects seen by the extracts were only on cancer cells. The extracts could have similarly deleterious effects on normal and healthy cells too, which would make them hazardous for consumption. To check if this was true, they tested the extracts on kidney cells obtained from an African green monkey (Vero cells) and found that the effects that they had observed on the cancer cells could not be seen here. This was an indication that the extracts were more harmful to cancer cells than to normal cells.

The importance of solubility

Now that they had some evidence that the beta-glucan extracts from P. tuber regium had some anti-cancer effects, the scientists wanted to improve the solubility of the extracts to make them more easily consumed. To do this, they modified the beta-glucan molecules by adding water-loving or hydrophilic chemical groups to them through a process known as carboxymethylation. This made the molecules easily soluble in water and therefore more bioavailable. They then added different doses of this modified beta-glucans to a human breast cancer cell line (MCF 7 cells). They observed a dose-dependent decrease in the metabolic activity of these cells. By monitoring the change in the number of DNA molecules in the treated and untreated cells they showed that the treated cells were multiplying much slower than the untreated ones. Further investigation showed that the treated cells were more prone to death as well. This highlighted the anti-cancer abilities of these extracts against breast cancer cells.

Size matters

The evidence provided by the studies so far sheds some light on the ability of P tuber regium sclerotial extracts to prevent or reduce the growth of cancer cells. However, a cell in a dish in the lab does not replicate the dynamic environment within the body. Another group of scientists from China’s Wuhan University decided to dissect this very aspect. They chose to work with Sarcoma 180 cells, a highly malignant mouse cancer cell line widely used in the field of cancer biology. They extracted water-soluble compounds from the sclerotia of P. tuber regium and further separated the molecules based on their sizes and biochemical properties. Once again the beta-glucans proved to be the molecules of interest. Moreover, the size of the beta-glucans had an impact on their effectiveness. Longer beta-glucan chains were more active when compared to the shorter ones. When it came to beta-glucans and their anti-cancer activities, size did matter it seemed.

In vivo effects

To replicate a more likely pre-clinical scenario, the Sarcoma 180 cells were transplanted under the skin of mice and allowed to form an active tumour. These mice were then injected with either 5-fluorouracil (an anticancer drug) or the beta-glucan extracts from P. tuber regium every day for eight days. On the ninth day, the tumours were dissected and weighed. Two of the extracts tested outperformed 5-fluorouracil and showed a greater reduction in tumour weight. This indicated that the extracts were not only able to prevent cancer cell growth in a dish, but also do so when injected into live animals. 

 

Taking a look at the evidence so far points to the ability of the polysaccharide extracts from Pleurotus tuber regium to inhibit the growth of cancer or tumor cells. However, it is important to keep in mind that all of these studies have been performed under highly controlled laboratory settings using well-established, immortal cell lines and do not necessarily recapitulate the true behavior of the disease. The in vivo mouse study by Zhang et. al. does indicate that the injected molecules are able to find the tumor and affect its growth negatively. However, the mode of injection, the location of the tumor, and the dosing protocol did not perfectly reflect an actual clinical scenario in a human patient. No successful clinical trials have been conducted to date that conclusively shows the efficacy of such extracts in the treatment of cancers or tumors. Keeping this in mind, we must evaluate the evidence that continues to grow day by day. Can these mushrooms help in the treatment of cancer?

Only time can tell. But they sure are delicious!

Read Part 2 on Diabetes of the blog King Tuber Oyster Mushroom: 3 Diseases it can protect you from: (PART 2/3)

References

Cheung, Peter C. 2001. “Chemical structure and chain conformation of the water-insoluble glucan isolated from Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Biopolymers.

Zhang, L. 2001. “Evaluation of mushroom dietary fiber (nonstarch polysaccharides) from sclerotia of Pleurotus tuber-regium (Fries) singer as a potential antitumor agent.” J Agric Food Chem.

Zhang, Lina. 2008. “Characterization of polysaccharide-protein complexes by size-exclusion chromatography combined with three detectors.” Carbohydrates Research. 

Zhang, Lina. 2009. “Chemical modification and antitumor activities of two polysaccharide-protein complexes from Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Int J Bio Macromol.

Zhang, Mei. 2003. “Molecular mass and chain conformation of carboxymethylated derivatives of beta-glucan from sclerotia of Pleurotus tuber-regium.” Biopolymers.

Zhang, Mei. 2004. “Carboxymethylated β-glucans from mushroom sclerotium of Pleurotus tuber-regium as novel water-soluble anti-tumor agent.” Carbohydrate Polymers.

 

Mushroom Spawn 101: Your Ultimate Guide

Before you start exploring this blog about mushroom spawn, It will be really helpful if you are familiar with the basics of what mushrooms are and how they are cultivated. If you’re new to mushroom cultivation, please check out these blogs to know more about how mushrooms grow and the jargon used in mushroom cultivation:

Mushroom spawn is very critical if not the most important input in the mushroom cultivation process. We try to clarify the most commonly asked questions about mushroom spawn in this blog, in order to equip you with the right knowledge. Here is a look at the different questions that we will be addressing:

  • What is mushroom spawn?
  • Why can’t we cultivate from spores?
  • How is spawn made?
  • What is the difference between grain spawn and sawdust spawn?
  • What are the qualities of good spawn?
  • How do we store spawn properly?
  • How do we know if the spawn we have is good?

What is mushroom spawn?

Mushroom spawn is basically mycelium, the living fungal culture, grown onto a substrate. It is the most critical input in mushroom farming and is used by mushroom growers similar to how farmers and gardeners use seeds. Mushroom spawn, unlike seeds, is grown from selected genetics and cloned so that it is possible to consistently produce a particular cultivar (cultivated variety) of mushroom which exhibits desired traits. This is similar to how people grow fruit trees via grafting as opposed to planting their seeds. Grafting is done to make sure that the fruit tree consistently produces delicious fruits because of a particular set of genetics that are chosen. Spores (and seeds for that matter!) are a genetic lucky dip dependent on two individual sets of genetic material, whereas spawn is a single, unique genetic culture that can be indefinitely propagated from the same ‘mother’ culture. Our ‘mother’ cultures are kept in the laboratory on agar petri dishes and maintained at the optimal temperature.

 

Spawn production in laboratory

Spawn bags being prepped under sterile conditions in the lab

 

 

Why can’t we cultivate mushrooms from spores?

In the wild, mushrooms produce tens of thousands of spores (some even billions!) and get scattered across the forest by wind, rain, insects and other agents. They are on a quest to find the most suitable growing conditions but sadly the vast majority of spores will never grow into a mushroom fruit-body. As a cultivator this is not a risk that you can take, you want to ensure that you get consistent, reliable and repeatable results every time.

Another factor to consider is that spores are not sterile and growing using spores directly might lead to an increase in contamination rates which will affect your productivity drastically.

At Nuvedo we select productive strains of edible and medicinal fungi to make spawn which have been proven to give consistent results in the Indian setting, so that our cultivators can maximize their success.

How is spawn made?

All spawn start out their journey on a petri-plate as a pure fungal culture of mycelium. Once the mycelium has fully colonized the surface of the agar, a tiny piece of the mycelium is transferred to boiled grain. This mycelium is then allow to grow on the surface of the boiled grain for 3-4 weeks until it colonizes all of the grain. This myceliated grain is what is called grain spawn.

 

Infographic about myceliated agar plate

Step 1

 

Infographic about grain spawn

Step 2

Apart from different grains such as wheat, jowar (sorghum), millet, rice, etc. some spawn producers even use sawdust and wooden dowels as a substrate for making spawn. The substrate used to make spawn serves three functions-

  • Act as a surface for the mycelium to grow and spread on
  • Provide the mycelium with macro and micronutrients so that it stays alive and healthy till it is inoculated on the final substrate material
  • Act as multiple points for the mycelium to grow from and colonize the final substrate material at a faster rate from different parts of the substrate

We produce all of our spawn at our state-of-the-art facility in Bengaluru. NuvoSpawn is produced on sorghum grain in sterile lab conditions. We start by taking mushroom cultures from our culture bank and then growing them out on sterilized grain in a controlled environment, using our own standardized process and media, to ensure that our customers get the best quality time and again!

To ensure consistent results we grow our own mushrooms at regular intervals and keep track of the cultivation parameters of each and every strain. We do not sell spawn of any mushroom that we ourselves have not grown. If you’re buying spawn for the first time, make it a point to ensure that your spawn vendor grows their own mushrooms to ensure the variety is still performing consistently.

 

Spawn making in lab under sterile conditions

Nonabsorbent cotton plugs being inserted into the neck of the spawn bag inside a Laminar Air Flow

 

Spawn making in lab under sterile conditions

Inoculation of sterilized sorghum with a myceliated agar wedge

 

 

Spawn production in lab under sterile conditions

Final packing of spawn bag after inoculation under aseptic conditions

 

What is the difference between sawdust spawn and grain spawn?

Grain contains a lot more nutrition as compared to sawdust. This can lead to contamination or increased chances of attack by pests if used to make outdoor beds or logs. When the cultivator wants to grow in an outdoor environment where there could be pests or where the chances of contamination are higher, sawdust spawn is a much better option. Using sawdust spawn for conventional cultivation can lead to lower yields and slower colonization as compared to grain spawn.

What are the qualities of good spawn?

The most critical parameters for good spawn from a cultivator’s point of view is:

  • It should be free from contamination

    1. The spawn has to be made under aseptic conditions preferably under a Laminar Air Flow to ensure the best results
    2. All materials used must be of the highest quality. Using low-quality or broken grain can lead to increased chances of contamination post inoculation.
    3. Grain used has to be boiled to the right consistency to ensure that it doesn’t break or get squished post inoculation. This is really important in ensuring low contamination rates.
    4. Grains/sawdust needs to be sterilized in an autoclave at 121 degrees Celsius and 15 PSI pressure to make sure that no microbial life persists
  • It should be fast colonizing

    1. Genetics that are old or not maintained well undergo “senescence” or deterioration, leading to slow growth and poor yields
  • It should give good yields

    1. Strains are one of the most critical factors which determine yield so spawn manufacturers should use commercial cultures which give high yields
    2. If cultures are not maintained well, the fungus can lose its virility over time leading to poor yields
  • It should be free from toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides

    1. Some spawn manufacturers have been seen using hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde to fumigate their labs and some even add antibiotics such as gentamycin to their media to keep it free from microbial contamination
    2. Over time, exposure to these chemicals can cause detrimental health issues to the cultivator who handles these materials
    3. Fungi can bioaccumulate complex molecules and the resulting mushrooms may contain trace amounts of these chemicals which will eventually affect the health and wellbeing of the consumer.
  • It should give consistent results every time

    1. Some genetics are prone to mutation more than others and this can lead to variation in cultivation parameters such as speed of colonization, physical characteristics of the mushroom itself, and even yields.

 

Qualities of good spawn infographic

Qualities of Good Spawn

We take pride in saying that NuvoSpawn is not just another bag of spawn. It is a technically superior product guaranteed to maximize your success by giving you consistent results time and again. We document the optimal growing conditions of our cultures to ensure that our customers can make the best use of our product.

NuvoSpawn:

  • Is enriched with first-quality grain which ensures vigorous colonization and healthy growth.
  • Is completely dry, pure fungus without wet patches to eliminate chances of bacterial contamination.
  • Has been proven to give higher yields due to greater bio-efficiency because of our genetics and unique media.
  • Is manufactured in a sterile environment which leads to a healthier growth of fungus.
  • Uses disinfected nonabsorbent cotton to reduce chances of contamination.

 

How do we store spawn properly?

Your mushroom spawn is alive!! Yes, it is a living, breathing organism. In order to keep it healthy, happy, and strong we need to make sure that it is stored properly. A question we keep hearing is “how long can I store my spawn?” How long you can store your spawn depends on 3 things mainly:

  • Cultivated variety or cultivar
  • Storage Temperature
  • Storage Conditions

 

Infographic on Qualities of Good Spawn

Factors Affecting Spawn Storage

 

Let’s take a look at the factors one at a time:

  • Cultivated variety:

It has been observed that varieties in which the mycelia grow slowly tend to have the longest shelf-life. To put it simply, the slower the growth of the variety the longer you can store it.

There are some basic signs to look for to understand if your mycelia are undergoing senescence or biological aging. The following are signs of the aging process of mycelia, in their order of appearance:

  • The mycelia become more compacted
  • The appearance of hard-looking crusts or lumps
  • Formation of foul-smelling, colored liquid
  • Self-digestion or autolysis of mycelium and degradation of mushroom spawn

 

4 Stages of Spawn Ageing Infographic

4 Stages of Spawn Ageing

 

The mycelium is perfectly healthy and usable in stages 1 & 2 through the spawn might not feel as crumbly as it does when it is fresh. Self-digestion or autolysis starts happening at the end of stage 3, hence it is strongly recommended that you use your mushroom spawn before it happens. The mycelium has reached the end of its life in stage 4 and therefore the spawn should be discarded at this stage.

 

  • Storage Temperature:

The ideal temperature for the storage of spawn is 0 to 4 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, spawn can be stored for anywhere from 2 months to 4 months. However, there are a few exceptions to this, for example, Pink Oyster mushroom spawn or Milky mushroom spawn tend to degrade if refrigerated since they are both tropical varieties.

 

  • Storage Conditions:

If you have ordered boxes of NuvoSpawn, make sure that you place the boxes on shelves or stack them in an alternative manner like bricks, always making sure that you leave around 10 cm space between the boxes for airflow. If spawn for mushrooms like oysters has to be stored for extended periods, then take out each bag from the box and put them separately on the shelves inside the refrigeration unit. The refrigeration unit will have to be opened on a daily basis to ensure there is enough circulation of fresh air for spawn survival.

We strongly recommend you not to order or store your spawn months before the actual date of use. Whatever money you may save on shipping will be compensated by an increased yield and lower chances of contamination losses using fresh spawn.

At Nuvedo we do not keep any spawn that has aged more than 3 weeks to ensure that our customers get the best results, so it becomes really difficult to entertain last-minute requests as we are almost always booked out. The best-case scenario for us would be if you let us know 14-21 days before you need your spawn so that we can ensure the availability of fresh spawn. We will ship it out to you exactly in time for your inoculation!

 

How do we know if the spawn we have is good?

So, you’re waiting on your first batch of NuvoSpawn from Nuvedo or have a batch of mushroom spawn that you’ve been storing for a while now?
Without testing, you might have to inoculate your substrate and then wait a few weeks to come to the realization that the spawn you used was too old or not strong enough. To save yourself all that trouble you now want a quick and easy method to see if you can proceed with inoculation without worrying if the spawn you used was good enough. Well, you’ve come to the right place, all you need to do is follow the instructions mentioned below!

There are 2 ways of doing this, the hard way (which gives you more reliable results) or the easy way (which is cheaper and requires a lot less effort)

Let’s start with the easy way:

  1. Take a sample of a few grams of spawn from each bag you wish to test.
  2. Take a clean plastic container and put a small pile of wet paper (tissue paper, toilet paper, cardboard) on it.
  3. Place the spawn on top of the paper.
  4. Place the container in a clean, cool place away from direct sunlight.

The mycelium should be growing visibly on the paper in less than a week. This method is not foolproof and can give you false results so we would recommend you to follow the technique mentioned below.

The hard but reliable way:

  1. Take a petri dish that has been prepared with PDA or MEA mixture.
  2. Open the dish under sterile conditions, preferably under a laminar airflow, to avoid contamination. (Contamination can give your false results)
  3. Using a sterile tool, such as a spoon sterilized under a naked flame, place a few kernels of mushroom spawn around the petri dish.
  4. Under the laminar air flow, roll the kernels around under the petri dish. Close and label the petri dish.
  5. Let the petri dish mature for 5 days to a week at a temperature beneficial for mycelium. We recommend around 20 Degrees for Oyster mushroom spawn or Shiitake mushroom spawn.

In a week you should observe mycelium growth from the place where the kernels were rolled over the agar medium and from the kernels themselves

The result: The strength of the spawn is indicated by the amount of mycelium growth present after a week. If the growth is fast and intense, your spawn is still very active. Old spawn also has a capacity to colonize the substrate like fresh spawn but the rate of growth will be much slower. So, the same applies to the kernels on your petri dish/paper towel. If you don’t see any growth in 5 days or so then that means that your spawn is too old and needs to be discarded. It is not that old spawn will not be active, it grows so slowly that contaminants get the upper hand and might take over your substrate. So, better safe than sorry.

Now that you have checked your spawn quality, you can confidently proceed with the next steps of mushroom cultivation if your test results came out well or order a fresh batch of NuvoSpawn in case your spawn is too old.

This brings us to the end of this blog, if you have any further questions or need any clarifications about spawn, feel free to reach out to us. We are more than happy to answer your queries.

Glossary | All things Fungi

Commonly used terminologies in mushroom cultivation

Mushroom cultivation is quite technical and involves a lot of jargon that can be intimidating if you are just starting out. Don’t let these difficult terminologies put you off from exploring the fascinating space of Fungiculture.

For all you first-time growers we have put together a glossary of some of the most commonly used terms and what they mean.

  1. Aborts: A mushroom that for some reason stops growing and never reaches maturity. They can be of varying sizes.
  2. Agar: A powder derived from seaweed used as a nutritive media for petri dishes
  3. Autoclave: A machine that uses steam under pressure as a physical method of sterilization to kill unwanted microorganisms present in the material placed inside of the vessel.
  4. Biological Efficiency: A commonly used measure of yield. It is calculated as the ratio of the weight of your total harvest of fresh mushrooms to the weight of the wet substrate.
  5. Colonization: The process when mycelia grow through the substrate, grain, or agar-filled petri dishes. When the mycelia have grown completely through the media, it is said to be fully colonized
  6. Contamination: Anything living on your substrate or agar plates that are unwanted. Typically, bacteria or harmful fungi.
  7. Culture: A piece of living mushroom mycelium that contains all the living matter and genetic material required to produce fruiting bodies.
  8. Ergosterol: A biological precursor of vitamin D2, the chemical name of which is ergocalciferol. Exposure to ultraviolet light causes a photochemical reaction that converts ergosterol to ergocalciferol. Ergosterol can be converted to vitamin D2 under ultraviolet radiation. Due to the high water content of fresh mushroom, its quality deteriorates rapidly after harvest, and drying is the most commonly used technology to extend the shelf life. The vitamin D2 content of dried mushrooms depends on the drying conditions used.
  9. Fruiting: The event when mushrooms emerge on the substrate
  10. Fruitbody: A typical mushroom
  11. Hypha:  It is a long, branching filamentous or thread-like structure of a fungus that form mycelium
  12. Inoculation: The act of adding a piece of live mushroom culture to grain or adding grain spawn to the substrate
  13. Mycelium: It is the vegetative part of a fungus that consists of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae
  14. Pasteurization: It is the process of applying low heat to inactivate spoilage enzymes and kill pathogens. It does not truly sterilize a product because bacterial spores do not get killed in the process.
  15. Pin, Primordia, Pinning:  Small, immature fruit bodies that are beginning to grow, which mature into mushrooms.
  16. Senescence: When the mycelium has crossed its potential exponential growth and loses vigor. Using any mushroom culture past this point will lead to poor fruiting and increased chances of contamination.
  17. Spawn: Any material that is overrun with mycelium and is used to inoculate a substrate. The most commonly used material in spawn is grain.
  18. Spores: The “seeds” of the mushroom that contain one-half of the genetic material required for the mycelium growth to begin.
  19. Sterilization: A process used to kill all living organisms in a substrate or spawn. Usually carried out by heating the material in an Autoclave so that the temperature can reach 121 degrees Celsius for a fixed period of time.
  20. Substrate: A medium such as straw, sawdust, coco coir, manure, waste paper, etc which is used for mycelial growth.

 

I hope we have covered everything, but in case there is something that you would like more information on, anything related to fungi and mushrooms, please do reach out to us.