The Development of Indoor Morel Cultivation

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All attempts at controlled, indoor Morei cultivation failed, until Ron Ower succeeded in 1982. By his own admission, the discovery of Morel cultivation was more by accident than design. And, Ron Ower told me that his experiences growing Psilocybe mushrooms combined with an "accident in the laboratory" led to success. (He revealed he had used the casing formula outlined in my first book, Psilocybe Mushrooms & their Allies (S tamets (1978)) as the sclerotia-forming formula.) Under pres sure from venture capitalists, Ron Ower applied for and was awarded two patents, along with G. Mills

Morchella Indoor

Figure 361. Six day sequence of the growth of Morchella angusticeps (Stamets strain # M-ll). Note rapid rate of growth and the formation of "micro-sclerotia". This strain looses the ability to form micro-selerotia when propagated more than 5 petr dishes from the original culture. Downstream inoculations into all bulk substrates are similarly affected.

Figure 361. Six day sequence of the growth of Morchella angusticeps (Stamets strain # M-ll). Note rapid rate of growth and the formation of "micro-sclerotia". This strain looses the ability to form micro-selerotia when propagated more than 5 petr dishes from the original culture. Downstream inoculations into all bulk substrates are similarly affected.

fruiting body

2 "mycelium ascus with ascospores ascus with ascospores fruiting body

Ascus Morel

SPORE RELEASE 0

GERMINATION

GERMINATION \ v

GERMINATION

Primordia Initiation Maitake Mushroom
conidia

2 "mycelium conidia conidia ipyrighted 1990 by Thomas J. Yolk.

Morel Mountain Morchella

Figure 363. A Morel prirr.ordiutn forms.

Figure 364 & 365.Morchella esculenta fruiting in trays at Morel Mountain. The technique they have developed is patented, and is still mystifying to all but them.

Morel Cultivation

and J. Malachowski, for the cultivation of Morchella esculenta, the Yellow or White Morel. (Oweret al., 1986 & 1988). The patent describes a technique whereto the Morel mycelium is grown from a nutritious food source into anon-nutritious medium. Once physically separated the mycelium forms sclerotia in the nutritionally impoverished substrate. After a period of dormancy the sclerotia are saturated with water, swell and when subjected to specific environmental cond'f\cns metamorphosize into Morel mushrooms.

One test of a patent is that it is reproducible. In the 7 years since publication, I know of no mycolc-

Figure 363. A Morel prirr.ordiutn forms.

Figure 364 & 365.Morchella esculenta fruiting in trays at Morel Mountain. The technique they have developed is patented, and is still mystifying to all but them.

gist who has grown morels using the techniques outhned by the patent. Either the strain that is being grown is unique, or critical information, obviously proprietary, has been left out. To this aj| I do not know what is missi , However, the grower: at Morel Mountain, the company i g the patented methoi 1 should be complimented for their skill at mushroom cultivation. They are accomplishing a feat n mushroom cultivation that has foiled the attempts of skilled mycologists worldwide.

I have 50' le insights which may be useful in the cultivation of a related species, the famous Black Morel, Morchella angusticeps. My research has concentrated on the ci ti ation ol the

Black Morel because this species is the most common Morel in stern Washington tate where

I live All readers of this book are encouraged to experiment with Morel cultivation, and develop thr- iwn uni jue techniques which do not come into legal conflict with the patented processes. To date all cultivated mushrooms can be grown by more than one method. For instance, Oy er mushrooms can be grown on straw or sawdust or coffee plants. Over the years many te :hmques have evolved for culturmg Shiitake, Nameko, Reishi and Shaggy Manes. With more experimentation. Morels will be no exception.

Morel Cultivation

Figure 366. Morchella angusticeps mycelia 3, 5 and 7 days after inoculation onto malt agar media.

Morchella angusr.reps Peck complex

Figure 366. Morchella angusticeps mycelia 3, 5 and 7 days after inoculation onto malt agar media.

C ommon Names: The Black Morel The Conic Morel Peck's Morel

Taxonomic Synonyms & Con; ¡derations: Morel taxonomy, to put it politely, is horribly confused From the same culture, I have grown Morels totally dissimilar in appearance, bolstering my suspi-ciuns about the divisions between "speces". My experiences reveal that the growth environment has a radical effect on morphology. And from a culti\ ator's point of view. I see some natural groupings.

The Morel taxa, which ;nclude all the white, yellow and black forms, are far too numerous to list here. However, the Black Morels are a naturally definable cluster, including Morchella angusticeps, M conica, and M. elata. In culture, they behave similarly. I would not be surprised if they are all found to be the same species in the broadest sense. A new, totally Black Morel, covered with a fine fuzzy coat, is called Morchella atrotomentosa (Moser) Bride, a mushroom that was uncommon in North America until the year after the Yellows tone fires. (See Figure 368). This Morel is so unique in its appearance that I would be surprised if it shared synonymy with any other. The Yellow or White Morels include Morchella esculenta, M. deliciosa and M crassipes These morels are extremely similar and probably cross-over taxonomically. The Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera, which has short cap overhanging the stem, also stands apart from these other Morels. New DNA studies are soon to be published which should shed light onto the abyss of Morel taxonomy.

Morel Indoor Cultivation

Figure 367. Portrayal of the archetypal Black Morel, Morchella angusticeps complex.

Morchella Atrotomentosa

Figure 368. The unique Morchella atrotomentosa. These two specimens were collected from a bun in Kamilche Pt., Washington, in the spring of 1988. Note the coat of fine hairs.

Figure 367. Portrayal of the archetypal Black Morel, Morchella angusticeps complex.

Figure 368. The unique Morchella atrotomentosa. These two specimens were collected from a bun in Kamilche Pt., Washington, in the spring of 1988. Note the coat of fine hairs.

Description: A honey-combed, ribbed species with black edges, the cap is t; :a| com d shaped measunng 2-6 cm. icle x 2-8 cm. high. Item white, hollow, with. granular texture, measuring 5-12 cm. long by 2-4 cm. thick. White mycelium is attached to the base of the stem. Distribution: Widely distributed throughout the temperate regions of the world. Natural Habitat: Common in the spring in a variety of hat-tats, particularly in dy soils of mixed woods ilong rive s i burned a s (1-2 years afterburning), and less frequent On the wesfco st of North Am ica, Ms mushroom is coi in only found in newl -bid wood daps rbeauty bark") In to Pacific Northwest, Black Morels are also found directly underneath cotton-iloTJdn^ apple trees. Davie rora notes that along coas und throughout the year though they are more frequent in the spnng. (Arora 1986.). In genera fall fluitingf are rare and unpredictal e. I. Colorado's Frdlt Range, just outside o Denver, Morek are airing mushroom, but in the mountains around Tellunde, I Hack Morels can be occasionally found in August, under spruce

Microscopic Features: Spores light cream: )rown. i ,-28 x 12-14/1, ellipsoid and «mo,th farming 8 at a time in sac-like cells called asci. Mycelia typically multinucleate, with fa uen it branching at maturity, clustering and swelling into micro-sclerotia which conglomerate into larger forms.

Mushroom Indoor Cultivation

Figure 372 & 373. From the ¿pawn featured in Figure 370 sever al forms of Morels showed. The large specimen with the pitted stem and conic cap weighed 1/4 lb. The round headed one weighed approximately half as much. A taxonomist would be hard pressed to call these the same species, but a cultivator sees such differences in form frequently from the same culture.

Figure 372 & 373. From the ¿pawn featured in Figure 370 sever al forms of Morels showed. The large specimen with the pitted stem and conic cap weighed 1/4 lb. The round headed one weighed approximately half as much. A taxonomist would be hard pressed to call these the same species, but a cultivator sees such differences in form frequently from the same culture.

If you do not have a burn;ite, but have a woodstove or like to barbecue in the summer, then those ashes can be mixed with other ingredients to create a Morel patch. Mix equal portions of the following :ngred;ents.

10 gallons of peat moss

5 gallons of ash

1 gallon of gypsum (calcium sulfate)

Mix the 'agredients in dry form. Find a shady, well dramed location and remove all topsoil ur il "mineral-eartn" is exposed. Lay down the mixture to a depth of 4 inches to cover as broad an area as th;s volume makes. Water Figure 374. Another burn-site inoculated with "M-

until saturated. Using a shovel or spade, mix in n" Morel sPawn produced these succulent, fruitbodies.

Figure 371. The patch was located in a tieia u oor lo ' ition) where no Morels would grow naturally. A shade cloth protected the patch from sun and deer.

Figure 370. Two bags oi'sawdust spawn (i>tamets strain IV 11) were inoculated into a burnsfre December 27th. (Figure 371.) Morels appeared May 4th.

Figure 371. The patch was located in a tieia u oor lo ' ition) where no Morels would grow naturally. A shade cloth protected the patch from sun and deer.

becomes the cultivator. In tracking temperatures, I believe the temperature fluctuati n from day to night, a SS is critical for the formation and development of Morels. F >m my charts, I have fou dthat li^mited temperature changes, rom 40-60° F. (4-16° C.) for several weeks du ring early span» ngger must mformati >n. Once the seasonal te nperatures move beyond thiscntical doffluc ,n,no ^o*ta.T«peraturesai ugh as 60° F.( 15.6° C.) cause the young mushrooms tha, have formed

^MSbuyggspawnandi P^gitintoyourback^—c the highest success rates which I estimate at 50%. However, it takes only a fpw^pes to install a Morefbed speedily you have ready access to wood ash or a burnsite. (. ncM| g Morel patch ^L bl shed h success rate jur ps to about 90% for subsequent years, proV^new itat is created and adc ional spawn is i> ro uced at the same time each year. Ir Mature every ecologica niche is unique The tri o not only fir the nght location for your i lorel patch, but to have condu civeweath^ conditions he arly sprit, Protecting the Morel patch from the sun and marauding

Morel spawn is rou yequival mo a gallon. This amo jt ft to 10 ft x 10 ft bed. I )Culations; e best conducted in the summer to early fall. Black Morel spawn i vaiMfle from Fungi Perfecti whose address is listed in the resource section in the ^pper.

^ You have two options for creating a Morel patch. The first is the simplest. Sel ct a bumsite (cam*

fire fire-pit Jre site, etc. that has! J a fire in the past month and is well shaded. Avoid sites wtere chemically treated w ¿c paper plas.es have been used. Spade an, £ deep into the ashes and burnt woor. Heavily water the site and ignore it tin. early next April. II rain does not 11 for more tl 2-3 days in April and May, a few m .utes of water, ng in the morning and evening can only help. Well water is fine. Do not use chlorinated water.

Profile of Natural Initiation Strategy

□ Muimnm > tmpenturc * Minimum Temperature

Date

Vtrpa Gyremttr* bohemia iiculenta

Mnrchtlla Mtigvitictpi

□ Muimnm > tmpenturc * Minimum Temperature

Date

Vtrpa Gyremttr* bohemia iiculenta

Mnrchtlla Mtigvitictpi

March 31, Aprils, April 10, April 15, April 20, April 25, April 30, May 5, May 10, May 15

Daily temperature fluctuation in topsoil layer—2"-4"—from a wild Morel patch in MaSOn County, Washington. (Recordings by Paul Stamets.)

March 31, Aprils, April 10, April 15, April 20, April 25, April 30, May 5, May 10, May 15

Daily temperature fluctuation in topsoil layer—2"-4"—from a wild Morel patch in MaSOn County, Washington. (Recordings by Paul Stamets.)

Figure 369. Temperature fluctuation for a period prior to, and during outdoor fruitings of Morels (Morchella angusticeps). Note that the temperature fluctuation for primordia formation occurred within 40-60° F. (5-15° C.)

Available Strains: Strains are readily obtained from wild clones or spore germinations. The mycelium out-races most competitors and can easily be isolated from contaminants.

Mycelial Characteristics: Mycelium at first fine, divergent, fast running, non-aerial and initially gray, soon thickening becoming gray-brown, with young clones developing numerous brown with orangish to golden nodules which I call "micro-sclerotia". (See Figure 361.) As the mycelium matures, the nutrified agar media becomes stained dark brown. (By viewing the petri dish cultures from underneath, the staining of the medium is clearly seen.) As cultures over-mature, the mycelium resembles squirrel's fur. When the mycelium is implanted into unsterilized wood chips, an powdery gray mildew forms on the surface. This asexual stage, resembling oidia, has been been classified as Costantinella cristata. I do not see this expression on agar or grain media

Fragrance Signature: Mycelium pleasant, smelling liked crushed, fresh Morel mushrooms. After transferring each jar of grain spawn, I am compelled to deeply inhale the residual gases still within each container. (A sure symptom of a Morel addict.)

Natural Method of Cultivation: Although my attempts to grow the White Morel (Morchella escalenta) indoors have only produced stunted mushrooms, I have had fairly consistent success at growing the Black Morels (Morchella angusticeps) outdoors in burned areas topped with peat moss or hardwood sawdust (oak or alder) supplemented with calcium sulfate. When Black Morel mycelium is dispersed into an outdoor burn-site, the cultivator relinquishes control to the natural weather conditions. In effect, nature spawn throughout the depth of the substrate. Heavily water the site, provide shade and then institute the strategy of benign neglect—ignore it until early spring.

When Morel spawn is planted late in the year between the months of October nil ecemberthe mushroom patch remains localized to the inoculation site. In contrast, Morel spawn that is planted in the spr g often gives rise o fruitings remote from the inoculation site. A professor from the Portland StaBSiversity planted ler spawn in the early summe . The next spring she ound a convoy o More s fruiti g from the s e of inoculation extending several hundred feet along a walk-way This also illustrates that by locating your Morel patch in an area generally conducive to Morel growth, a substantially larger patch an one just 10 ft. x 10 ft. in size can be created. From my experience, the best sites al ways shaded, are: around freshly laid wood chips of elm, oak, poplar, cottonwood and/or Douglas fir, in apple orchards, along gravel driveways, in washes from overflowing streams and of course:a soils where a fire has swept through. The greater the access to these types o> avorable habitats that you give the Morel mycelium, the larger your potential Morel patch. The larger the mycelial mat the more op . )rtunities for widespread, i iderground sclerof formation. Once the spawn is in place you relinquish trol over to natural forces. In effect, you allow Nature to do what it does bes

I have always envisioned, being the mad scientist at heart, of aerially bombarding prospective habitats with Morel sclerotia. Every time I see a television report of ai planes Using a fire-retardent to quench a forest fire, I imagine their returning a week or two later and bonr : g the same sites with a sclerotial slurry of Morel spawn. I happily volunteer to be the spawn makrt and the bombardier !

Outdoor Morel beds often support other mushrooms, some of which I view as indicator species. Ti ir presence is a sure sign that the habitat is si 'table for Morels. The most common aac we lcome indicator sped- are the brown cup fungi, species belong' ig to the Genus Rhizma (R. undulata , j )jsdna (D perlata) & the Genus Peziza, P. phyllogem (= Peziza badw-confusa).

Since I find Morels fruidng abundantly in amongst these cup fungi, I do not view them as true competitors. Furthermore, the False Morel, Gyromitra esculenta and the Early Morel,Verpa bohemu| precede Morels by two or more weeks. (See Chait, Figure 369).

In the Pacific Northwest, Morels are found directly at the base of cottonwood tree:, A new hybrid strail of cottonwoods, a cross between eastern and western varieties, is being planted en masse for pulp production. The mating of these two varieties has yielded a "super strain of cottonwoo s, which grow uf - inch per day. These cottonwoods, wilh their accelerated life cycles, seem like ideal ce didates for the companion cultivation of Morels outdoors

A similar approach might work with apple trees By locating an morel bed directly underneath apple trees he cultivator could create a perennial Morel patch. Orchards, both small and large scab could pre i I a bumper crop each spring. Once established, the Black Morel is well known to frequent the same apple orchard for decades. Most other habitats provide only a temporary home for Morels.

Since cottonwoods enjoy especially wet conditions, often unsuitable for pines, their soils are characterized as having a naturally higher moisture content. This environment is ideal for the natura culth tion of a number ot many mushrooms outdoors, including those on logs and on chip/sawdust n d i Is. Mature cottonwoods can be harvested and inoculated with a wide vanety of gourmet and n edici al mushrooms. Logs can be impregnated with Reishi (Ganoderma lucia m), Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Shiital e (Lentinula edodes), or Lion's Mane (Hericium ennaceus) mycelium.

Stumps, branches or log sections can be used for outdoor cultivatká. (See Chapters 4 and 5.) Once mushrooms have fully produced on these wood substrates, the remaining material can be recycled for species sequencing, as fodder for animal consumption, as a base for mycofiltraf;on, as a supplement for soil enhancement, or even as pulp for paper manufacturing. Mushroom mycelium natu rally pulps the wood on which it grows. I believe tht judicious combination of factors: mushroom strain, tree type and site location can be jvxta-positioned to create a synergistic model for myco-forestry. Bear in mind that the ways of Nature are enigmatic. Some of these interactions may be far more complex than science can currently comprehend. I encourage readers of this book to explore these concepts and develop them further. This idea fits neatly ;,ito Chapter 5: The Stametsian Model: Permaculture with a Mycological Twist.

Leonard & Volk (1990) reported the co-occurrence of Morels (in the M. escalenta complex) fr:it' lg w:th begonia plants (Begonia tuberhybrida). I have seen Morels growing with a variety of potted ornamentals, and in the wild, with leeks. We know of no direct relationship between Morels and these lowerplants—their cooccurrence may merely be c( mcMental. However, the direct association of Morels and certain trees like cottonwoods, elms, oaks, firs, and apples is consistent and long-term.

Recommend';d Courses for Expansion of Mycelial Mass to Achieve Fruiting: Currently the only successful method for indoor cultivation for any Morels is the one developed by Ower et al. (1986. 1988). However, I know of no skilled cultivators or professional mycologists who have been able to grow Morel mushrooms by precisely following the patented techniques. I am currently developing a method for Morchella angusticeps on cased rye grass seed but have only been successful to the stage where white "fuzz balls" emerge from a sea of brown mycelium. From the center of these fuzzy formations, finger-like Morel primordia form but abort due to some unknown environmental or genetic shortcoming. (See Hgure 363.)

Morel mycelium can grow across nutrient agar media in a 100 x 15 mm. petri dishes in 3-4 days, and is clearly the fastest grou ing of all mushrooms. A conidial, or asexual stage, also develops from the mycelium wherein a spore is generated from the hyphal network and once germinated, produces more mycelia and more sclerotia. Soon after the Morel mycelium colonizes the surface of the

Primordia Mycelium

Figure 375. This mycological experimenter siarted a patch of Morels by simply broadcasting "M-ll" spawn into a rocky debris field resplendent wiih burnt wood and upturned earth. Inoculated >n November, a dozen or more Morels appeared in late March. Square pieces of paper indicate locations of Morel colonies.

Figure 375. This mycological experimenter siarted a patch of Morels by simply broadcasting "M-ll" spawn into a rocky debris field resplendent wiih burnt wood and upturned earth. Inoculated >n November, a dozen or more Morels appeared in late March. Square pieces of paper indicate locations of Morel colonies.

nullified agar media, sclerotia form. The Black Morel produces a unique form of sclerotia, whose sheer numbers mn into the thousands per cubic foot. These sclerotia resemble small golden nodules which eventually amass together. When they are broken during their early stage of development many more sclerotia grow. Micro-sclerotia form abundantly on nullified, sterilized media, especially

MYA OMYA and the many variations of these formulas.

When sawdust is inoculated with grain spawn, the sclerotia form most abundantly against the glass or plastic container, or along other interfaces. With most mushroom ^cies producing these umque foirnations, sclerotia ;row better in darkness than in light. (Heim et al. (1967), Stonets & Chilton (19831 Volk & .eonard (1990)). Although light can totally inhibit the formation of sclerotia in the Morchella escuknta group, strains of Morchella angusticeps are less affected.

Black Morel sclerotia amass as hundreds of small hardened, pumice-like structures which an become golf-ball sized. The sclerotia-forming ability is soon lost with continuously expanded mvcelium Only by using cultures close to their genetic origins is this sclerotia-forming ability preserved When the mycelium declines in vigor, sclerotia are not only absent, but the mycelium changes into a mulatto form-cottony white mixed through golden brown aerial mycelium When cu tures are transferred for more than ten generations of petri dishes (100 x 15 mm. dishes filled with MYA) the mycelium ceases to form micro-sclerotia. Clearly, maintaining stock cultures closest to their wild origins is critical for success in sclerotia production, and by inference, mushroom product ton.

Morel mycelium adapts to the liquid fermentation (Gilbert (1960) and mjection techniques described in this book and in The Mushroom Cultivator (Stamets and Chilton (1983)). Sclerotia formation is substantially greater on annual rye grass seed than on coarser grains like rye, wheat or sc rg um. Sclerotia from rye grass seed can be harvested after several weeks ol incubation in low light or darkness.

Suggested Agar Culture Media: MYA, MYPA, PDYA, and OMYA. Volk & Leonard (1990) noted tha{Morchella esculenta, when grown on standard media preparations, notably Difco s PDA & Difco's Mycological Agar®, failed to form sclerotia spontaneously.

1st 2nd & 3rd Generation Spawn Media: Rye grain for the first two generations. I prefer using soa'ke 1 annual rye grass seed for the 3rd or final generation, buffered with 5% calcium sulfate (by dry weight) Mix the rye grass seed and calcium sulfate together in dry form, submerge in water, at 2 times its make-up volume, and allow to sit overnight. Add 5 lbs. of moist hardwood sawdust into polypropylene bags. Place 1 cup (. 24 liters) of moistened rye grass seed as an even layer to the top surface of each sawdust-filled bag. Fold bags closed and sterilize for 2-3 hours at 15 psi. Inoculate the top layer with rye grain or liquid spawn. Do not through-mix. Incubate in low light and/or darkness for two weeks.

Substrates for Fruiting: When fully colonized and resplendent with sclerotia, take the above am: invert the ba*s so that the seed layer is on the bottom. Place 4-6 inches of a moist layer of peat moss that has been buffered with 10% calcium sulfate (by volume) over the Morel seed/sawdust spawn. This concoction can be placed outside to benefit from natural spring initiation strategies or used in the attempt to grow Morels indoors. Note that separation of the seed from the substrate is not critical. lhe 10-12 inch depth from the bottom seed layer to the top surface of the buffered peat moss is sufficient

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Responses

  • sini
    What does it take to grow morel mushrooms indoor?
    7 years ago
  • Hamid
    Can morels spawn be grown on sawdust?
    6 years ago
  • Mebrat
    How mushroom developed?
    6 years ago
  • Sebhat
    Can mature morel sclerotia inoculate trees?
    4 years ago
  • belladonna
    How to grow morchella esculenta?
    3 years ago
  • CHRISTINE BECKENBAUER
    How to grow morel mushroom in lab?
    2 years ago
  • Ronald
    How to grow morels indoors?
    2 years ago
  • leena
    How to grow Morchella angusticeps?
    1 year ago
  • jan
    How to grow morel mushrooms indoors?
    8 months ago
  • CHRISTOPHER
    How morel grows define formula?
    6 months ago
  • jesse
    How to grow sclerotia morel?
    3 months ago
  • marcho
    How to grow sclerotia paul stamets?
    3 months ago

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