While fuel pellets are the primary market for wood pellets there are other uses. Most notably there is also the horse bedding market and BBQ wood pellets. However, there is another wood pellet niche that even I was unaware of until recently. It’s using wood pellets as a growing medium for mushrooms! The first video below provides a good introduction on the benefits of using wood pellets as a mushroom medium when compared to other materials such as straw.
The Advantages of Wood Pellets for Growing Mushrooms
As explained in the video, wood pellets require much less energy/cost to prepare the material for growing mushrooms. In comparision let’s say you were using straw as your mushroom growing medium, which is very common. Well, there will be a lot of other bacteria growing within that straw. You first need to kill that bacteria and rogue fungi before you can try and grow the mushrooms you desire.
Therefore that means you need to produce boiling water to sterilize the straw, wood shavings etc. Wood pellets are created under very high temperatures in the pellet mill. Furthermore, once the wood pellets are formed and cooled their high density means it’s very difficult for bacteria and fungi to penetrate into the wood pellets.
Therefore wood pellets are a sterile growing medium for mushrooms. So you can then just add clean cold water to prepare the material before introducing the mushrooms/fungi. Wood pellets are also apparently very flexible for growing Oyster mushrooms, Shiitake and Reishi.
Softwood or Hardwood Pellets?
After watching quite a videos and articles on using wood pellets for growing mushrooms I did start to notice a trend. There was a clear emphasis on using hardwood pellets and not softwood pellets. Now, most wood pellets are actually made from softwoods such as pine. Therefore I wanted to research a little bit more on why softwood pellets may not be suitable for growing mushrooms.
Well, apparently pine has anti-fungal properties, so that’s obviously not ideal if you’re trying to grow mushrooms! Some articles stated it’s not impossible to ground mushrooms with softwood pellets, but the yields will certainly be affected.
How to Prepare Wood Pellets for Growing Mushrooms
So, after I became aware of the benefits of wood pellets as a growing medium for mushrooms I wanted to look more into the process. I became curious about what methods are used to prepare the wood pellets. I then came across the video below which is a great little DIY setup which shows how to do it:
The process shown in the video uses a standard 40lb bag of wood pellets, so is an easy process to replicate. The creator of the video has made themselves a very handy barrel tumble mixer. First, the full 40lb bag of wood pellets is emptied into the drum, followed by roughly 5 gallons of water. The operator then lightly mixes the wood pellets and water, leaves for around 20 minutes and repeats the process.
Adding in the Mushroom Spawn
The wood pellets will have absorbed the water, hence why wood pellets make such a good horse bedding product. At this point, you are ready to add in the mushroom spawn. The operator then rotates the drum mixer around 20 times. The mixture is then unloaded onto a DIY bag filling area.
Loading into Plastic Bags
The mushroom growing medium is then loaded (quite tightly) into some tall/thin plastic bags. Clearly, the advantage is that there is a larger surface area for the mushrooms to appear from. Once the bags are tightly packed and tied off, holes are then made 5-6 inches apart. This is done in three rows across the surface of the bags. The bags are then placed in a cool environment (60-70F) for 2-3 weeks for the mushrooms to form.
Conclusions on Wood Pellets as a Growing Medium for Mushrooms
Before writing this post I thought I knew pretty much all the uses there were for wood pellets. However, using wood pellets to grow mushrooms even took me by surprise. The real benefit of wood pellets for growing mushrooms is that they are sterile. Therefore the success rate and yields for growing mushrooms increases. I’m now quite interested in buying a mushroom starter kit and giving it a go myself. I’m a fan of a nice tasty mushroom, but this is the first time I’ve ever thought of growing my own!