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Growing multiple mushroom species in one wood chip pile

 
Dennis Bangham
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Does anyone have any experience in growing more than one mushroom (wood loving) species in the same wood chip pile? 
I have heard that Shaggy Mane and Wine Cap get along great. Is this true?
Are there others that can do well in the same pile? Like Oysters?  Any other?

thanks
 
John Saltveit
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I would grow different species in different piles, as they tend to fight each other instead of making yummy mushrooms.  Even a small space apart will leave each species of mycelium to reach its spiritual potential.
John S
PDX OR
 
Cybil Opsin
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No experience with this, and indeed I'm having trouble imagining what you mean exactly by "pile" as I am from the 'mainstream' online mushroom comunity and woodlover mushrooms grown on chips there are typically cultivated outdoors in very neat, evenly thick, carefully-attended-to beds which I could not call "piles" of wood chips without it feeling like a stretch (still, there are many small differences in the usage of english words between different areas).

Conventional wisdom says no, not because its not possible but because its only likely to reduce each individual species' ability to efficiently and tenaciously consume its substrate (mushrooms consume and gain energy from the calories in its food, like humans, but unlike plants), because all species are expected to "go to war" at least to some extent against their neighbors who are contaminants from their perspective. This does not theoretically kill any mushroom species, but reduces their yields similar to "poorly designed" over-competing polycultures of plants.

The problem in a nutshell (only theoretical for me) is that unlike plants, a slight reduction in "vigor" due to competition might result in a whole patch of mycelium failing very, very quickly.

It isn't very fun when a huge pile of wood chips you made last week turns 90% green in a week, and now instead of mushrooms you've just got a big pile of mold which is blanketing your property in mold spores, all because you made some tiny error which reduced your mycelium's ability to "go to war" against the mold spores that were present in the environment.

A good example is bacteria in jars, which frequently kills a whole culture that's already 50% colonized or more, all because the grains got a little too moist.

A priori I would not expect that polyculture cultivation of mushrooms in this way would "necessarily have to" show the same results that plants show (polycultures can provide higher yield in some cases). It is theoretically possible that the logic is all different for mushrooms, who all share a lot of particular differences with plants in terms of lifecycle (eventual exhaustion of the soil/substrate nutrients which they use, such as N or lignin or calories of sugars in the wood, therefore the requirement that mushrooms be "fed" regularly in a way plants don't require), also in terms of behavior (mushroom behavior is highly similar across species with relative differences in the exact type of substrate preferred being among the most significant/noticeable differences between two given species. I.e. For mushrooms more than plants, you are likely to find yourself working with multiple species who all require the same food inputs but only perform slightly differently at different points on the humidity spectrum between 85%-100, or at different points on the temperature scale between 60*F-80*F, leading to increased likelihood of species exclusion, incompatibility for polyculture, aggressive warfare that wastes fungi resources).

In fungi you are fighting a war of attrition against contaminants AS WELL AS against the tendency of a given culture to eventually weaken as it goes through its media (in the short term - requires cloning or "spawning" of some sort to introduce new food) and in the long-term to senesce and become unusable (especially genetic isolates like you get from buying liquid cultures from vendors). You have to essentially chase after every possible increase in your fungi's advantage against contains because this is the only way to get more flushes once you commit your valuable grain/woodplug spawn to a particular bed. Wood lovers are amazing in that they can be re-fed again and again simply by adding properly prepared food to an old bed, they are perennial in this sense, and some others can become permanent residents on the land without staying in one place, but for many species you are going to necessarily avoid any choices that result in even tiny reductions in performance, by which i mean how they perform in terms of their ability to "hang on" to their territory of wood chips without giving way to any rival fungi/molds/bacteria (any of the latter are essentially in competition although established fungi can coexist with contaminant spores in the outdoors if it is established before going outdoors).

It is generally rare to see mushroom cultivation in which spawning (mycelium run proccess, a dangerous time for the culture being used which can be destroyed quickly if something goes wrong) can be done reliably outdoors from the get-go. This SUGGESTS but does not PROVE to me that fungi are less ideal candidates for polycultures than plants, but this is a general statement and likely to have some exceptions.

These are theoretically the issues I would be grappling with in trying to decide whether to expend any of my spawn in order to test fungi polycultures.

And definitely, it is always recommended that you START SMALL with experimental fungi techniques because, well, you spawn and materials are valuable! And most everything in fungi is highly scalable up and to some extent down to small scales.

Last thoughts in regards to the theoretical reasons people don't tend to attempt this: permaculture often upends such instances of conventional "more categorical" or "monoculture" thinking. Perhaps some species are exceptions.
 
James Freyr
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Cybil-

Thanks for the quality post. I don't yet grow my own mushrooms, but it is something I am very interested in doing and is on the horizon. I found your information very helpful and interesting.
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