Wild Bird Seed for Mushroom Grain Spawn
Introduction to Wild Bird Seed for Grain Spawn
What is Wild Bird Seed?
Wild Bird Seed is a mixture typically composed of various seeds such as millet, sunflower seeds, milo, and cracked corn. It is widely available, affordable, and, as you may guess from its name, is commonly used to feed birds. However, its utility extends beyond the diet of our backyard buddies; it has found favor among home mushroom cultivators as a choice substrate for grain spawn.
Why Use Wild Bird Seed in Mushroom Cultivation?
Wild Bird Seed offers several benefits that make it an attractive option for home mushroom cultivation. Its ready availability and low cost make it an economical choice. More importantly, the nutritional diversity it offers due to its varied composition provides a veritable feast for growing mycelium, fostering healthy and robust growth.
Preparing Wild Bird Seed - Step by Step
Measure Dry Grains
Start by measuring the dry grain you want to use for your spawn. Put it into a large pot. Remember that approximately 1 quart of dry grain usually yields about 2 jars of spawn. This isn't an exact science, as you'll need to remove the sunflower seeds later.
Fill the pot with water. Now, begin to remove anything that floats. This will mostly be sunflower seeds, which can cause contamination if not removed. Using a small mesh strainer can be quite helpful in this step.
Mix and Rinse
After you've removed the floaters, run your hands through the grains to release any trapped sunflower seeds. Repeat the process until you have murky water. Drain the dirty water through a colander or mesh strainer to avoid losing any grain. Refill the pot with clean water, then repeat the mixing and rinsing process until the water becomes crystal clear.
While cleaning the grains, make sure to remove any large corn kernels, sticks, pebbles, or other debris. You don't need to be extremely thorough - just remove the larger pieces of debris that you can easily see.
Once the water is clean, fill the pot until the water is about 1 inch above the grains. Cover the pot and let it soak for at least 12 hours - overnight is often best. This allows the grains to fully hydrate, which is an essential step for successful mushroom cultivation.
To prevent the grains from sticking together, add a scoop (tablespoon) of gypsum. Increase the nitrogen (pH) by adding a cup of mild coffee to the grain.
After the grains have fully hydrated, it's time to cook them. Heat the pot until it comes to a simmer. Be sure not to let the mixture boil, or the grains could break apart and turn into a sludgy mess. This cooking process will soften the grains, making it easier for the mycelium to consume.
Strain & Air Dry
After cooking, strain the grains and allow the outer surface to air-dry. This usually takes about 45-60 minutes. You'll know the grains are ready when they don't leave a puddle when placed on a paper towel.
Fill Mason Jars
Now it's time to fill your jars. Aim for about 2/3 full. This leaves some extra space, which will be helpful later when you need to break up the colonized grain.
Prep Jar Lids and Add Foil
Every jar lid should contain a filtered gas exchange. Without this, the mycelium could suffocate and die. To create this, punch a hole in the lid and cover it with a filter patch, micropore tape, or stuff it with polyfill. If you're planning on inoculating the grain with a syringe, add an injection port as well. Once your lid is prepped, cover the top of the jar with foil to prevent moisture from entering through the gas exchange.
Now you're ready to sterilize your grain spawn. To do this, you'll need to prepare your pressure cooker and cook the grain spawn for 90 minutes once the pressure cooker reaches 15 PSI. This step is crucial for eliminating any potential contaminants.
Allow the pressure cooker to come down in pressure and cool overnight. You'll want the grains to be at room temperature before inoculation. If the internal temp of the spawn is too warm, it could kill the mycelium.
Advantages and Potential Challenges of Using Wild Bird Seed
Benefits of Using Wild Bird Seed
Using Wild Bird Seed as a medium for mushroom grain spawn offers several advantages. It's an affordable, widely available substrate that provides a rich nutrient variety, leading to robust mycelium colonization. The mixed composition of seeds can result in a better and more extensive mycelium network, which can potentially lead to more abundant fruiting.
Common Issues and Solutions
While using Wild Bird Seed has its benefits, it's not without its potential challenges. Contamination is a common issue, as bird seed can sometimes harbor unwanted organisms. Ensuring thorough sterilization during the preparation process can mitigate this risk. Another potential challenge could be the seeds sticking together, making it difficult to shake the jars and distribute the mycelium evenly. Using a small amount of gypsum during preparation can help to prevent clumping and improve shakeability.
Wild Bird Seed offers an effective, economical solution for home mushroom cultivators seeking an accessible and efficient grain spawn substrate. While it may require a bit of preparation and precaution, the robust mycelial growth and potential for bountiful yields it can facilitate make it a worthwhile option to consider in your mushroom cultivation journey.