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MAN newsletter 5

Watering on phase 3 compost.

In a lot of mushroomfarms, waterings before casing on phase 3 compost  is a policy.  Sometimes the compost is short and soft, well fermentated, and sometimes long and harder . The amount of water for bringing the compost in the right moister is always a point of discussion, but is depending of the outside weather, and activity. Besides that,there is allways a big difference in evaporation  between the rooms and farms. Always there should be a balance beteween the amount of water and the differences in evaporation.

Composters try to do their best to create compost with constant moister and structure. But because of differences in raw materials and climate, this is not always possible. So here we have a point of attention. Some composts kinds absorb the water very easily, like well fermentated, soft and shorter compost. From the other hand this kind of compost has very often lower activity, and accordingly lower evaporation. This means that growers, who  give already water before casing, for instance on the headfilling machine, or straight on blocks, should be beware of the fact that this kind of compost is easely overwatered and loosing activity after first flush quickly.

If compost is soft and well fermentated waterings before casing should  not be more than, lets say 4-5 liter per m2, based on 64-65 % moister and a filling weight of around 85 kg/m2 phase 3. If the compost is dry, of course more water can be added, but higher amounts as 8-10 liters per m2 is not recommendet. Also if the structure of the compost is long. A general rule is to give 3 liter per m2 extra for increasing the moister with 1%. During colder days 2,5 liter per m2 already has the same effect.

Other point of attention is the compost pressing influence of  watering before casing. Especially on headfilling machines this has a huges effect. This is caused by not coming up again of the compost after the compost is pressed. Too tight pressing always causes a lower activity at the end of the first, and start of the second flush.  This means while watering the compost before casing, the pressing of compost should be fine tuned according the structure and tightness of the compost. On the other hand, if there are no waterings done  on the headfilling machine, the danger of to tight pressing is very low.  Tight enough pressing of not watered compost avoids shrinking the compost after the first flush. Too loose, not watered compost filling, many times we see a kind of a bridge of casing with a layer of air between compost and casing at the start of the second flush. This is causing light and fast riping mushrooms, mainly during the second flush.

Conclusion is that watering on good incubated phase 3 compost can be done with success, but only if there is enough attention for structure, moister  and activity. From the other hand we see many compost, for which the risk of watering is too high, for instance in case of many changes in quality of compost.

Last but not least. If the bottom( 3-4 cm) of the compost layer at the start of the first flush is higher in moister than the top of the compostlayer, the watering before casing needs to be a point of attention. Research of Anton Sonnebergh (WUR) showed that the bottom layer is not evaporating, and therefore no foodtransport is taking place, during first and start of second flush. The toplayer of the compost is absorbing the water always better, if watering takes place after casing.

Thei Staaks.


MAN newsletter 4

Tip Mushroom Advice Network

Influence of Ammonia during phase II

Many times I have discussions with compost producers about the function and sensitivity of Ammonia during phase II.
Most people are thinking too easy that high levels of Ammonia are not so important during phase II.
But first of all NH3 (Ammonia in a gas concentration in the air) kills Green Mold spores when NH3 is more than 250 ppm.
More NH3 kills more Green Mold spores. (More than 250 ppm is for that reason advisable).

Second point, enough Ammonia is changing by micro live into proteins (Food for Mushrooms) during the Conditioning process.
For both reasons compost producers needs attention to handle the process that there is enough Ammonia during the Pasteurization. Together with High Ammonia and the Pasteurization temperature between 56 Degrees Celsius and 60 Degrees Celsius kills more Green Mold spores than during cook out end of the harvest (Higher compost temperatures and no Ammonia).

Compost producers like to go to the save site with Ammonia so they never have problems with the spawning schedule in their Tunnel farm. Of course the schedule is an important part of the process however compost producers several times go too much to the opposite what means not enough Ammonia.
More than 600 ppm NH3 can kill micro live in the compost as well. How higher the NH3 how more spores of Green Mold are killing.
The compost needs finally during the Conditioning process enough micro live for Ammonia exchange.
Most optimal NH3 during the Pasteurization is 300 – 500 ppm but most important is that the compost needs on time to be free from NH3.

In an optimal process the total phase II time is only 5 Days. Very important for an optimal phase II process is the inoculation of micro live compost (For example 2% finished phase II compost from the batch before) some hours before creatingmore micro live developing in the compost after inoculation.
The reduction speed of Ammonia during the Conditioning is related to the quality of Phase I as well. Some guys are afraid for NH3 concentrations during the Pasteurization from 400 ppm or more.
They are afraid for too much NH3 after 5 Days of Phase II. But when Phase I is optimal, normally the NH3 reduction goes fast enough to spawn after 5 Days of Phase II.
Mixing quality of raw materials is a very important part of successful phase I. Know that cooling down for spawning by more than 5 ppm is risky for too much Ammonia rests in the compost. Mycelium doesn´t grow when there are Ammonia rests in the compost.

Sometimes Ammonia doesn´t drop down and stays still on 10 or 15 ppm ore sometimes more. In case of that, I advice to reduce the average compost temperature till 45 Degrees Celsius.
The reason of that is because several times too much Ammonia is related to wet spots in the compost. In these spots the compost temperature is most of the time higher like 53 – 55 Degrees (Because wet spots are many times more compact what means no or less air crossing).
When the average compost temperature drops down from 48 Degrees till 45 Degrees it will drop down the warmer spots as well. 55 – 3 Degrees will become 52 Degrees, like 53 Degrees – 3 Degrees will become 50 degrees.
Below 53 Degrees Ammonia start changing into proteins by the micro live that is responsible for that.

The cold start calculation needs to be calculated by each batch again and very secure! Depend of the amount of Nitrogen raw materials makes risks in mistake different. For example when the process is working only with straw and chicken manure any mistake will be punished. By more Nitrogen raw materials a mistake in calculations will be not optimal but will give less effect than only chicken manure as Nitrogen raw material.

Regards, Jos Buth.


MAN newsletter 3

Tip Mushroom Advice Network.

Filling phase 3 in a room.

Mechanically filling and casing a room with a headfilling machine of course has big advances, as there are labor-savings and less problems with contaminaions .
Thereby the possibilities to mix caccing through the casing soil and pull plastic foil under the compost are of course also great possibilities.
And that all in one movement.
Never te less, the quality of filling does not always satisfactory.
Therefore here some tips to help.
The biggest problem during filling is to get an even layer of compost and casing in the shelves.
Very often we see a problem with uneven supply of compost and casing in the headfilling machine.
The different leveling systems (chains or drums) are very limited if the supply of compost and casing is uneven.
For instance if the stockpile before the compostlevelling chain goes from minimum to maximum the fillingweight can vary until 15 kg/m2! This means very big differences in temperature during the whole cycle.
Also the evaporation, more or less pins, faster or slower grow of the mushrooms, and more orr less drying of the casing is consequence of uneven filling.
An other big disadvance is the composttemperature management . To keep the composttemperature under 27-28 degrees Celsius during warmer periodes in the hottest spots means too low temperatures in spots with lower amount of compost.
Compost temperatures above 28 degrees means more chance of Trichoderma.
Also therefore in a point of vieuw of energy savings it is better to have even filling .
The easiest way to prevent uneven filling is to keep the supplying of compost until the maximum before the levelling chain or drum.
Better switch off and on more often the compost supplying into the headfilling machine, than to fill uneven.
Talking about casing supplying it’s actually the same story.
Before the levelling chain the same amount of casing during the filling.
However, the level of casing before the levelling chain has big influence of the structure of the casing after filling.
Now a days more and more growers asking for wet and coarse casings for better spreading and better quality mushrooms.
This kind of casings are very sensitive to become muddy and mushy if there is a too high amount of casing before the leveling chain, and the chance of anaerobe casing during watering is there. In practice this means, have a low and even amount of casing as possible before the leveling chain.

Back to the compost.
How tight the compost should be pressed? At this point there are many different opinions. The biggest mistake is the argumentation that loose filling helps to become a good distrubution of the water , given on the casing soil, trough the whole compost layer. (The water drops easier in a loose compostlayer.)
This is a wrong argumentation, because we now we have the knowledge that the most of the evaporation, biological and chemical changes take place in the top (10 centimeters )of the compost layer. (Sonneberg, Mushroom Busines December 2011) It is obvious that the upper half needs more water than the lower half.
Next reason to avoid too loose pressing of the compost is the subsidence of the compost during the first and second flush.
Many times we see already after the first flush a kind of a space between casing and compost contact layer.
This is an obstacle for the transport of food for the second and third flushes and creates often a weak and fast growing second and third flush.

Good Luck!
Thei Staaks




MAN newsletter 2

Tip Mushroom Advice Network

Uniformity in compost

Consistency and uniformity is for the most compost producers and mushroom producers the most important issue in the production of compost. Fine tuning can only start when compost is consistence. Uniformity is a part of that. What are important issues to make your compost uniform? First of all, it starts with good selections of raw materials. Be secure and critical in acceptations and buying of your raw materials. One of the big mistakes is many times in many farms cheap investments of products like raw materials. Many compost producers and or mushroom producers don´t have enough the idea how bad influence bad raw materials can have for compost quality´s. Small amounts of bad raw materials makes the rest of the compost worse and not the opposite, that the biggest part of the raw materials what is nice improve the worse and smaller part of the raw materials. Take care that you protect storage of raw materials. After arriving of good raw materials is separate pre wetting of different raw materials a must for uniformity! The quality of mixing is another very important issue what has big influence of uniformity and consistency. Uniformity of watering is a very important detail in the mixing process. Make highest attention as possible for a perfect watering system. This means water has to come even as possible on an even flow of raw materials. The way how raw material is entring in a mixing line makes a big difference in uniformity. For example when a loader brings straw in an uneven flow in the hopper of the mixing line (once a lot, other moments small amounts) it makes the straw not uniform wet and it creates a not uniform mixing quality. . The time after mixing what happens than with your mixed product? When you put it on an aerated floor, for example be sure that the mix has an open structure , this means use a filling system and not only a loader. When you make piles take care that you protect the piles with nets by strong sunny weather or raining days. When you fill after mixing the mix directly in bunkers please make optimal attention of filling quality (fill in compost layers and use a filling system, like a bunker filler, overhead filler of filling cassette). The time the compost stays in a bunker is an influence of uniformity as well. Don´t think that many times bunker changes are optimal. Principal one bunker change has to be enough in a normal bunker time from 8 days, but is only possible by a perfect mix. Everywhere compost producers need to change the bunker more than once, means that the raw materials are not properly mixed. Some Bunkers in the world are open in the top. Please make protections like a simple roof (Wooden roof is most practical against oxidations). Protect your compost against rain, sun and wind. The in between phase I and phase II tunnels or pasteurization rooms need also extra attention. Try to mix the compost uniform during or after emptying the bunker. (Right equipments and protections against not optimal weather) Good luck,

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MAN newsletter

This is our first M.A.N. newsletter.

It is the intention that our site will start providing useful and practical information regarding composting, cultivation and/or harvesting on a regular basis.

I would like to use this occasion of the first newsletter to discuss an item that does not receive
the attention it deserves, viz., mushroom harvesting. The harvesting of mushrooms has a major
impact on the quality and yield. Picking multiple times a day has already proved beneficial at many
companies. Yet we can still see that many companies fail to capitalise on the benefits of this method
of picking. The reason is that people run into difficulty when making the transition to picking multiple
times. Changes in the company are often met with resistance among staff, i.e. the pickers. Yet those
in charge of harvesting too consider picking multiple times an additional load to their already difficult
task. However, the advantages easily outweigh the disadvantages. To put in very simple terms,
mushrooms grow 24 hours per day, fact.
A mushroom can double its weight in 24 hours, provided the dispersion allows for this. After all,
dispersion is a requirement in order to harvest quality. In other words, a mushroom that is harvested
2.5 hours too early due to single picking, could have gained 10% more in weight when the multiple
picking principle had been applied, without compromising quality. Stronger still, quality and product
care in particular often improve, as size grading becomes easier for the pickers and thus easier to
manage thanks to multiple picking.
A suitable method for multiple picking will differ from company to company and depends on the
status of the harvest period, customers and picking auxiliaries. Yet in general, the following picking
schedule is a practical method to start with.

The multiple picking principle certainly requires a proper introduction at the start. One tip is having
highly motivated pickers who are perceptive to innovation start with multiple picking, thus making
the results of the new picking method tangible. An increase in production and an improvement of the
picking performance of around 10% compared to single picking is easily achievable.
Prepare a proper harvest schedule the day before, and in the morning, before the start of the pick,
check once more to see whether the schedule is still sound. As we know, mushrooms can sometimes
grow quicker than anticipated. Carefully calculate how many pickers you want to start off with.
Another tip is not to start with too many pickers, thus minimising the time to change from one cell to
another and preventing the pickers from impeding each other when carrying out multiple pickings.
The best plan of action is to prepare the schedule in a way that after the first pick (approximately 2
hours of picking) the same batch of people re-pick the entire cell (another 2 hours), with the option
of deploying a few additional pickers for the third or subsequent picks.

Good luck,
Thei Staaks
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