Growing Pleurotus mushrooms can turn into a successful business, if you put into practice some of the advice in the lines below. “Shell” mushrooms, as Pleurotus mushrooms are also called, are a very delicious and very nutritious food, similar in terms of calories and protein with meat, fish and even pork or poultry meat.
They regulate cholesterol levels and are particularly indicated in diets. They also have great anti-carcinogenic potential. There are several Pleurotus species and hybrids: Pleurotus ostreatus (known as Beech / Beech Trout sponge), Pleurotus Florida, Pleurotus HK35 (hybrid obtained in Hungary, where the cultivation of these mushrooms is widespread).
To implement this business idea, you will need:
– a space of 70 square meters (for example, in an old house or a new space, built by you, as long as it is not made of wood, because this material will result in loss of culture of mushrooms)
– a substrate for growing Pleurotus mushrooms, which is sold, usually in plastic bags of 10 or 25 kilograms
– ventilation, proper temperature and humidity; it is best to start a business on a smaller scale, to check how much you can handle and, thus, in these conditions, you probably will not have enough money for air conditioning devices, so that you can opt for purchase of industrial fans, one to pump air, the other to remove it and to keep the humidity level, you can let the water run down until it reaches a height of 2 inches from the floor.
– due to the fact that insects can interfere negatively in the growth of Pleurotus mushrooms, it is absolutely mandatory to have the installation of filters in ventilation
How to prepare the substrate
The substrate used for growing this type of fungus is composed of rice straw, which must be soaked in water with calcium hydroxide for a period of half an hour. It is recommended that, before the operation, the straw to be sterilized by placing it in a larger casserole, over which you pour boiling water (100 degrees Celsius), leaving it to cool to 20-25 degrees C, after which you drain the water. The amount of calcium hydroxide must be precisely measured, for every 100 kilograms of straw, adding 2 kg of calcium.
After the required time has elapsed, the straw is spread on a cement surface, evenly, and covered with plastic wrap. The top of the heap that forms must be left uncovered. This specially designed substrate for growing Pleurotus is left to ferment for a period of 7 to 10 days, time during which the straw must be turned over and mixed every 3 days. To check the moisture of straw, you can take in your hand an amount that you’ll mold in the form of a ball. If the hand remains wet, the moisture is proper. If your hand stays dry, then you need to add water.
Seeding the substrate with mycelium
The mycelium required for the growth of this type of fungus needs to be purchased from reliable centers for a quantity of 100 kilograms of straw, requiring two or three kilograms and half of mycelium.
To grow Pleurotus mushrooms you need to arrange a growing bed, in this case in the form of plastic bags with dimensions 20×30 or 18 × 25 centimeters. Open the bags and add the already prepared straw, pressing gently with your hand until the bag is covered with a thick layer of 3-4 centimeters, over which you sprinkle the mycelium – it will be the first layer. Continue doing so, adding another 3, 4 layers, until you get to add the last layer (over which you do not put mycelium) and that will have a thickness of 5-7 centimeters. At the mouth of the bag add a soft cotton cloth, which will function as a filter cloth and shut the bag with a rubber band. Bags thus prepared are linked to each other, with a nylon rope in order to hang them, so as not to be in contact with each other, but a few centimeters away.
The bags for growing Pleurotus must be stored in rooms sheltered from wind and light, with a good ventilation, at a temperature of 15-25 degrees Celsius. After a period of 25 to 30 days, the mycelium will start to develop in the bag. With a sharp knife, pierce between 4 and 6 holes on the side of the bags, 3-5 cm long, at equal distances from one another (and a few on the bottom of the bag, not to collect water in excess).
It is important for these cuts be made so as not to lose strength bags. After the bags were cut, they must be sprayed with water two or three times a day to keep the moisture needed for growth of Pleurotus mushrooms, being careful not to add too much water, in order not to collect into the bag. Remove the cotton canvas from the mouth of the bags and suspend them on a rope with the mouth upwards. In very short time, fungi, shaped like some little cufflinks, will begin to appear.
The first mushrooms can be harvested at about 7 to 10 days after cutting the bag. After harvesting the first batch of Pleurotus mushrooms, it is indicated for several days, not to sprinkle with water. When new mushrooms will begin to appear, squirt them again. This cycle can be repeated three, even four times, being able to get a harvest of 50-80 kilograms of fresh mushrooms from 100 kilograms of straw, with some luck. At first harvest, it is more realistic to expect a quantity of 25 kilograms of Pleurotus at aproxmativ every 100 kg of substrate.
Growing Pleurotus mushrooms is not complicated, as you can start with a minimal investment of around 500 euros, for an area of 80-100 square meters. Domestic and external demand is very high, higher than the offer. For those who want to expand their business, there is the possibility of accessing the European funds.