There are many questions that growers ask often, some of the questions are: which is the best substrate? Which is the best yielding substrate? Which substrate should I use?

To give the best answer I would like to say the following, this is how I present substrate during my mushroom training. When I talk about substrate I am referring to any type if mushroom and this includes compost ingredients.

What is substrate?
I usually say substrate is any plant material and say “I have finished training on substrate”. Think of any mushroom substrate, it can all be tracked back to plant matter, your chicken manure starts as plant material that is digested in the chickens stomach.

Let me list substrates as I do on my trainings: grass straw, wheat straw, cotton seed hulls, cotton motes,maize,paper, maize stover, cotton shirts , saw dust, tree leaves, banana leaves and so much more. Hobbyist can use anything, however for commercial production of mushroom the following are critical considerations to make (availability, cost and processing)

Availability in huge quantities as per farm capacity is what a grower must look at. First thing to do is consider what is near your farm and is free before considering buying from other places or buying

As a mushroom farmer your primary objective is profit, in short consider cost of substrate as it will affect how fast you will expand and be profitable. Transport has a huge bearing to your ultimate cost. Processing will have a huge bearing on cost.

If you look closely all the three factors end up on costs, use a substrate that has the least cost and gives you economical yields, unprocessed substrate are expensive to transport, such things as raw wheat straw, maize stover. Grinding reduces volume and ensures a higher tonnage per small volume, this is the reason why cotton seed hulls are popular in Zimbabwe and few use maize stover despite the fact its free and millions of tonnes go up in smoke every year. On average cotton seed hulls have 0.82% nitrogen content while maize stover has 0.75% (excluding maize cobs). Pelleting and bailing are further key processing.

Mixing substrates
Substrates can be mixed but mixing must be guided by such things as nutritional compositions, structure, moisture holding and final pH. Get an expert to guide you in this regard.

Substrates can be fermented which most call composting, I will not go into detail about fermentation, I will leave it for some other article in the future.

There is no single best substrate but each grower has their best substrate or substrate composition based on factors highlighted above. Go for what is available in right quantities, giving economical yields, cost effective, easy to stock. I never tell anyone this is the best because best is subjective. Be careful yield is not determined by volume of substrate but by weight. All the best in your mushroom farming. Perhaps give me your best and why its best in the comments section below.

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