What are Coprophilous Mushrooms?
Coprophilous mushrooms, also known as dung-loving mushrooms, are fungi that grow and thrive in animal feces. These mushrooms grow on manure and feces of farm animals such as cows, horses, pigs, and sheep. Some common genera of coprophilous mushrooms include Panaeolus, Psilocybe, Stropharia, and Coprinus.
Coprophilous mushrooms play an essential role in the environment by breaking down animal waste, which helps decompose feces and return nutrients to the soil. While growing mushrooms grow in poop can be sustainable using waste materials, it requires balancing moisture, aeration, and microbial activity. The key steps to grow mushrooms grow in poop at home: obtain fresh manure, mix with straw and gypsum, pasteurize the substrate, inoculate with mushroom spawn, place in a humidity tent,mist and fan regularly, and harvest mushrooms once fully grown. Proper pasteurization and sterilization are important for safety.
The Fascinating World of Fungal Ecology
Fungi play an essential role in the environment by breaking down organic matter and recycling nutrients. Mushrooms, especially coprophilous mushrooms, help decompose animal waste and return nutrients to the soil. Fungi are extraordinary organisms that break down nutrients through their mycelium. The mycelium secretes enzymes and acids that decompose the organic matter around it by converting complex molecules into simpler ones that can be absorbed by the fungal hyphae.
The kingdom Fungi contains over 5 million species, and fungi thrive almost anywhere there is moisture and organic matter. Fungi are nutritionally diverse organisms, occupying various ecological roles in nature:
- Saprotrophs: break down dead organic matter by secreting enzymes and acids. Most coprophilous mushrooms act as saprotrophs.
- Parasites: derive nutrients from living hosts, sometimes causing disease. Some parasitic fungi infect plants, animals, and even other fungi.
- Mutualists: form symbiotic relationships with other organisms where both benefit. Many fungi form mutually beneficial relationships with plant roots (mycorrhizae) or algae (lichens).
- Decomposers: break down complex organic compounds into simpler inorganic components. By decomposing waste and dead organisms, fungi play a crucial role in nutrient cycling and making elements available for new growth.
The life cycle of fungi typically involves alternating between haploid (one set of chromosomes) and diploid (two sets of chromosomes) stages. They reproduce both sexually and asexually through mechanisms such as conjugation, spore formation, fission, and budding. The asexual spores allow fungi to spread and colonize new habitats.
Fungi are essential components of ecosystems, although some species have devastating effects and are considered pathogens or parasites. Fungi remain crucial in nutrient cycling, plant nutrition, waste decomposition, food production, and more. Their ecological importance outweighs their harmful effects. Overall, the fascinating world of fungal ecology deserves more recognition and understanding.
Types of Fungi that Grow in Animal Waste
Several types of fungi, including mushrooms, grow on manure and feces of farm animals such as cows, horses, pigs, and sheep. Some common genera of coprophilous mushrooms include:
- Panaeolus: Small, fragile mushrooms with bell-shaped caps. Panaeolus species are saprotrophic, feeding on dead plant and animal matter. Some contain psilocybin and are considered “magic mushrooms”.
- Psilocybe: Known as “magic mushrooms” that contain psilocybin, a psychoactive compound. Some Psilocybe species are coprophilous, such as Psilocybe cubensis which grows on cattle dung.
- Stropharia: A genus of medium-sized mushrooms with a distinctive wine-red spore print. Some Stropharia species grow on wood chips, mulch, compost, and animal feces.
- Coprinus: Known as “inky caps” due to their self-liquefaction. Several Coprinus species are coprophilous, such as Coprinus comatus which grows on dung from sheep, cattle, and horses.
These fungi thrive in nitrogen-rich environments such as manure. They are well-adapted to grow in animal feces, with some species even being obligate coprophiles, meaning they can only grow on dung. The table below lists some common coprophilous mushrooms, their preferred host feces, and distinctive features:
|Genus||Preferred Feces||Distinctive Features|
|Psilocybe cubensis||Cattle||Psychoactive, bell-shaped cap|
|Panaeolus cinctulus||Horse, cattle||Psychoactive, conical cap|
|Coprinus comatus||Horse, cattle, sheep||Inky cap, liquefies with age|
|Stropharia ambigua||Horse, cattle compost||Wine-red spore print, medium-sized|
Coprophilous mushrooms demonstrate the remarkable adaptability of fungi. While feces are rich in nutrients, they also present challenges related to moisture, pH, and microbial activity. These mushrooms are well-suited to prosper in such demanding environments. Their role in decomposing waste and recycling nutrients is an invaluable ecological service.
The Pros and Cons of Growing Mushrooms in Poop
While growing mushrooms in poop can be sustainable using waste materials, it requires balancing moisture, aeration, and microbial activity. It also brings risks of pathogens and odors if not properly handled. Some key pros and cons of growing mushrooms in manure are:
- Sustainable and eco-friendly: Uses agricultural waste products that would otherwise be discarded. This reduces waste and promotes a circular economy.
- Nutrient-rich substrate: Animal manure provides an ideal substrate for mushroom growth due to high levels of nitrogen, potassium, and organic matter. This results in fast colonization and high yields.
- Low-cost: Manure is cheap and often free to obtain since it is considered an agricultural waste product. This reduces the overall cost of mushroom production.
- Pathogen risk: Fresh manure may contain pathogens, bacteria, and parasites. Proper composting and pasteurization is required to eliminate disease risks. If not done properly, there are risks to consumer health and mushroom cultivation.
- Odors: Decomposing manure results in unpleasant odors, especially ammonia. Outdoor cultivation and proper aeration can help reduce odors. Indoor farms require air filters and odor control systems.
- High maintenance: Balancing moisture, aeration, temperature, and microbial activity in manure requires close monitoring and maintenance. Failure to do so results in reduced yields, contamination, or unfavorable odors.
- Seasonal constraints: In temperate climates, mushroom cultivation in manure is limited to warm summer months.Temperature control techniques are required for year-round indoor cultivation.
Overall, growing mushrooms in manure can be rewarding when done properly with suitable controls and maintenance in place. For commercial cultivation, additional investment in equipment like automated environmental controls, air filters, compost turners, etc. is often required to optimize yields, reduce costs, and minimize risks. With increasing focus on sustainability and the circular economy, organic waste streams represent an opportunity to upcycle materials locally and strengthen food systems. Mushroom cultivation in manure is one way to achieve this in a profitable and eco-friendly manner.
How to Grow Mushrooms in Poop at Home
The key steps to grow mushrooms in manure at home are:
- Obtain fresh manure: Source raw manure from local farms that house the animals whose feces your target mushroom species prefer. For example, obtain cattle manure for growing Psilocybe cubensis. Make sure the manure is as fresh as possible, between 0 to 3 days old.
- Mix with straw and gypsum: Mix the manure with straw to provide carbon and structure. Add gypsum to adjust the pH between 6 to 8, which is suitable for most mushrooms. Aim for a manure to straw to gypsum ratio of approximately 5:3:2. Mix thoroughly.
- Pasteurize the substrate: Pasteurization kills pathogens, bacteria, and other contaminants in the manure while retaining nutrients. Aim for an internal temperature of 60-65°C for 8-12 hours. This can be done using a compost turner or manually turning the substrate. Pasteurization is critical for safe and successful cultivation.
- Inoculate with spawn: Add mushroom spawn, which contains mycelium growth, to the substrate once pasteurized and cooled. Use approximately 10% of spawn to the total substrate volume. Mix the spawn thoroughly into the substrate using gloved hands or a compost turner.
- Incubate in a humidity tent: Place the inoculated substrate in a humidity tent or chamber, container, or room that maintains 95-100% relative humidity. This environment will encourage fast colonization of mycelium. Aim for temperatures of approximately 20-28°C depending on species.
- Provide airflow and misting: Gently fan the incubation container and mist with water 2-3 times a day to provide fresh air exchange and keep the humidity high. Mycelium requires oxygen to grow, so proper airflow and humidity are essential.
- Harvest mushrooms: Once the substrate is fully colonized and mushrooms begin to form, move the container to a shady, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Mushrooms require moisture and indirect light or shade to develop. Harvest mushrooms once they reach full maturity by twisting or cutting them off at the base.
Proper pasteurization, hygiene, and environmental controls are important for successful and safe cultivation of mushrooms in manure at home. Done properly, it is possible to produce multiple flushes of mushrooms over 60-90 days. Home cultivation of mushrooms in poop can be a rewarding learning experience and provide a sustainable food source.