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OfflineBlue Helix
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50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss * 1
    #2480695 - 03/29/04 06:36 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

WHAT IS THIS STUDY ABOUT?
After much searching without finding anything but hearsay, I decided that I would have to test out coco-coir-based (coir) versus peat-moss-based (peat) casing in an experiment of my own to determine the real differences and possible benefits of these casing materials. I have tried to eliminate variables besides the actual casing components in the experiment by applying and colonizing the two casings identically.

BED/CASING COLONIZATION
The cropping surface of this tray is approximately 36.5" x 14" (~3.5 sq.ft). The substrate consists of pasteurized, aged horse manure spawned with 27 half pints of birdseed/vermiculite. The bed is approximately 3" deep with 1" casing. Colonization of the bed took six days in a room of about 75F. During that time the bed's core temperature was monitored and maintained at 84-88F by way of a PC cooling fan blowing across the bottom of the cropping container (as excessive heat from colonization was an issue). A 1" casing was applied and colonized in 5 days, again using the bed's own heat to keep the core temperature up (during the last two days, wrapped the bed in insulating reflective bubble stuff to keep the bed's core from falling below 84F). One day prior to full casing colonization, a minor top scratch was used to even mycelium break through. The next day, when the casing was initiated, mycelium break through was about 30%.

CASING MATERIALS
The casing is roughly split equally between a pH-balanced vermiculite/peat and vermiculite/coir mixture. Both casings were sterilized using a pressure cooker. Pure calcium carbonate flour (as used in wine making) was used to balance the peat and coir (the coir didn't require much). Crushed, coarse coral aragonite sand was used in place of oyster shell for long-term buffering and to improve the casing consistency. There is a middle casing zone which unintentionally has some degree of peat-coir mixing, mostly from the scratching process.


CASING DIFFERENCES OBSERVED
The coir and peat moss casings have vastly different textures. The coir-based casing was much lighter and less prone to over saturation. The coir was easier to spread and deal with than the peat. The peat casing was heavier and more soil-like. Now let's talk about colonization.

As the cropping container is not completely opaque, I could well observe colonization. Colonization through the peat moss casing was very slightly slower than the coir (maybe 20% slower). The peat moss colonization had slightly fewer capillaries and showed slightly more dense growth (although this could have been from moisture differences).

Today is day three since initiation. Here are some pictures of the tray today demonstrating the differences so far:




As seen above the peat moss shows far less mycellium on the surface yet has plenty of evidence of mycellium running just under the surface evenly as desired. The coir, on the other hand, shows some degree of what appears to be overlay. Furthermore, I don't think the overlay is due to anything I've done wrong; rather it seems that the coir itself is slightly nutritive and, thus, being colonized to some degree as a substrate. As to the effect on yield, I can only speculate at this point. I am betting the peat supports fewer but larger mushrooms while the coir supports smaller, more numerous fruits. Total yield, though, will be very interesting. I'll update this thread when cropping time comes.


Edited by Blue Helix (03/29/04 09:34 PM)


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OfflineBlue Helix
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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix] * 1
    #2480850 - 03/29/04 07:21 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

One more observation point: although I said in my post "overlay" I am not certain this is an accurate term for it. Observing under the casing through the cropping container, what seems to be happening is that the underground coir mycellium fans, which originate from the substrate itself, are simply breaking across the surface. Each capilary forms a tiny mycellium spike on the surface, so while there are vertical mycellium spikes across the surface, there is little horizontal component to the run (i.e. the mycellium isn't running across the surface). The same can be seen in the peat moss casing except the mycellium fans consist of fewer capilaries, which translates to less white on the surface. Again, the total yield will be very interesting.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix] * 1
    #2482396 - 03/30/04 01:42 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

I am anxious to see the fruiting results. As the casing is in one container I think it will be hard to see which layer would have supported an earlier fruiting. As the coir casing half colonized quicker, I would think that it would also fruit sooner.

I can forsee a few differences, both good and bad, to each type of mix.

Joshua


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Joshua]
    #2482514 - 03/30/04 02:48 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

In my experience, casing colonization doesn't have too much to do with the timing of fruiting. Every tray I've done has been ready to pull shrooms on day 9, 10, or 11 after the tray is initiated for pinning (lower CO2 and temperatures). And I've seen the pins come from as deep down as the substrate when the casing failed to properly colonize (which sucked)!

So, my job is to slow down the mycellium a little so it doesn't overtake the top layer by day 6 or 7 (when I typically see the first pins). For this tray, I've turned off the ultrasonic mist cycles to try to reduce the growth a little. I am still using the cool mist, but just not the ultrasonic misting for a day or two.

So far my hunch is that the peat moss casing is going to produce more fruit because it isn't being so consumed by the mycellium like the coir seems to be. It could well be that the coir would be best if mixed with some peat moss to slow it down, but that would be another experiment all together. The whole point of this experiment is to see if I can get coir to work well in optimal-yield tray. There are lots of pictures around here showing coir works for moderate to medium flushes, but how about an optimal flush? In case anyone doesn't know: from a tray this size (3.5 sq.ft.), one should be able to get, even without a high-yield clone, about 3/4ths to a full pound dry over four or five flushes. I know that is possible with peat casing and super spawned horse manure (Paul Stamets says in TMC that even more can be expected with a deeper tray), but I want to try coir because of how it doesn't get too wet so easily, cleans off the fruits easier, and is easier to lay out. But if overlay is a problem, I won't use it again.


Edited by Blue Helix (03/30/04 02:59 AM)


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2482656 - 03/30/04 04:10 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Has anyone given thought to that P. Cubensis may be consuming the Coir? It can be fruited on paper, wood, and other cellulose rich components. I have even fruited it from rich topsoil... Could it also be that when you buffer the PH, the lime has most effect on the surface, but the internal PH stays high? Thus, the mycelium grows across the surface instead of agressively attacking it...

Edit: When I say buffer the PH, I mean buffer the peat.


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Edited by ATWAR (03/30/04 05:27 PM)


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OfflineBlue Helix
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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: ATWAR]
    #2483203 - 03/30/04 11:44 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

My observation is that the mycellium is eatting the coir but non-aggressively, which is a good thing. Probably the only thing that is saving me is that there is 50% vermiculite and plenty of crushed coral in there. A casing that is too nutritive will be consumed and act more like a substrate, which is a bad thing since it negates the whole purpose of a casing. This morning the top structure of the coir remains pretty well open and less so than the peat (as in the picture). Since I've cut back mistings and brought the core temperature down even more, I think I will be able to hold off overlay until the pinning starts (which pretty much halts all mycellium growth). I expect pins in three or four more days if things go as they usually do.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2483470 - 03/30/04 02:09 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Quote:

The whole point of this experiment is to see if I can get coir to work well in optimal-yield tray. There are lots of pictures around here showing coir works for moderate to medium flushes, but how about an optimal flush? In case anyone doesn't know: from a tray this size (3.5 sq.ft.), one should be able to get, even without a high-yield clone, about 3/4ths to a full pound dry over four or five flushes.



I've regularly seen coir based casings yield 4 dry ounces per square foot. In fact, I wouldn't even consider that a very high yield. There is no doubt that coir casings can support the yields you are talking about here. In fact, I've seen double those yields, both from coir and peat based casings.

Your experiment may be interesting to do a side by side comparison of the two, but if the question is "can coir support optimal flushes", that has already been answered many times.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: mycofile]
    #2483801 - 03/30/04 03:41 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

mycofile, that's encouraging news! I was looking back through your posts, and damn are they interesting! You gave me more than a couple ideas...


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OfflineBlue Helix
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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2486037 - 03/31/04 02:46 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Update: The coir side has colonized a little more but is no more heavily overlaid than before. To my surprise, the peat-based casing shows pins starting this evening, forming earlier than I normally see them. I found no pins on the coir side although the initials could be better hidden by the white mycelium rhizomorphs. I guess we'll know for sure in the next 24 hours if pins are forming on the coir side too.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2486269 - 03/31/04 05:06 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

At what level exactly did you adjust the PH with what ?


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: ragadinks]
    #2486304 - 03/31/04 05:45 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

hydrated lime and crushed oyster shells to the 50/50+ tech recipe id imagine


Edited by fresh313 (03/31/04 05:45 AM)


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2486448 - 03/31/04 08:53 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

i only use straight coir for casing now,i belive it holds moisture better than a 50/50 verm mix due to the fact that it shrinks less during a flush.
straight coir is the way to go.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Hanky]
    #2486628 - 03/31/04 11:04 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

The pH of the coir-vermiculite (around 1:1) casing wasn't really adjusted. I didn't measure the pH per se but added two or three tablespoons of calcium carbonate flour (NOT hydrated lime) per 4 cups of coir which should have had very little pH impact on the mix.

What I see happening is exactly why Paul Stamets has not included coir as a casing alternative; namely, the mycellium is colonizing the coir as a substrate because it is a nutritive casing ingredient unlike peat. Of course, coir CAN work because there are many pictures of it working really well. I think maybe if I had initiated fruiting sooner or maybe if the coir had not been adjusted to the proper pH range, the colonization of the coir would have been minimized like it is in the peat moss.

Today the peat moss shows many pins. The coir shows none. Keep in mind these casings are side-by-side in the saming fruiting chamber. Needless to say, I am not impressed so far with the coir casing's performance. Maybe the coir casing is just a late bloomer or maybe it's overlaid for some reason, but I'm leaving the surface alone--no scratching--to see what happens.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2487141 - 03/31/04 03:13 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Well, I changed my mind. I went ahead and scratched the coco coir casing. Much to my surprise, the coir was colonized as hard as any substrate cake I've seen! It is definitely not acting like a casing at all. In fact I wonder if I might be able to use coir as a replacement for straw! I am not sure what's going on here, but I'm using a brand (forgot the name) of low sodium coco coir that I've seen pictured around here before.

Well, the yield is probably not going to be all that great for the coir side (probably average), but I'll update when I get the numbers. Maybe next time I'll try coir again but initiate fruiting very early. The reason I want coir to work in the first place is I believe it'll be easier to maintain in the long haul (less shrinkage) and easier to clean off the mushrooms. I also think I could get away with minimal pasterization if I use coir whereas peat definitely needs strong pasterization or even sterilization.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2487836 - 03/31/04 07:21 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Quote:

Blue Helix said:
Well, I changed my mind. I went ahead and scratched the coco coir casing. Much to my surprise, the coir was colonized as hard as any substrate cake I've seen!




This has been my impression of coir all along. It does get colonized heavily and consumed to a certain extent. I have noticed this, and still use it with a heavy mix of vermiculite and oyster shells. I like coir because it does not "mat down" like peat, and there is no need to adjust PH levels.

I also find it best to place it in the fruiting chamber when mycelium just begins poking through (just barely visible, when it has just begun colonizing through). It will still continue to grow while in the fruiter, but colonization can be minimized this way, along with patch casing. Coir is very hard, if not impossible to water when colonized. It is imperitive that you put it in the chamber early, and patch as necessary to keep exposed coir available to accept water.

Now that you scratched the coir layer, your experiment is no longer equal. You should have left it alone to do a comparison on pinset and flush. A better experiment would be two seperate casings that can be placed in the fruiting chamber at optimal times.


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OfflineBlue Helix
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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: ATWAR]
    #2487907 - 03/31/04 07:56 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

I think the experiment was fundamentally flawed from the beginning. The coir casing cannot be run side-by-side with the peat moss casing because the two casings do not colonize at the same speed (the coir is definitely much faster and easily overlays). The peat moss casing is now showing perfect colonization and pinset while the coir was starting to be overlaid and not receptive to mistings until I scratched it. So even if I had not scratched the coir, the experiment would have been flawed from coir casing's overlay problem, and since I did scratch, I'll get more mushrooms (probably) but the experiment is still flawed because the two casing were not optimally incubated. It was a catch 22. And you are right, I really need to do two trays, incubating each just right, and compare their fruiting.

Even though the coir is gave me trouble, I still have some intuitive notion that if done right, it'll be better than the peat moss because of all the reasons already mentioned. In my next tray, I'll try coir alone and know better what to do, so the experiment is not a total waste at least.

I'll still give yield figures once everything is done. I'm betting the coir doesn't do too bad but will be several days behind the peat now. Now if the coir still produces a higher yield than the peat, it'll be a real miracle!


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2489180 - 04/01/04 01:50 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

I think coir will suffer on the later flushes. I bet its equal in the beginning but watering could be difficult with the thick colonization. It will be an interesting experiment, be sure to track more than the first flush. I usually fruit it earlier than peat, works for me. As long as you have bits of the surface area clear of mycelium, you can water and it will soak into the rest. I think water content, and ability to re-hydrate the casing will have the biggest impact on yield differences. Scratching will also have a small to major impact on fruiting and is really unnecessary. Cubensis will form pins through the overlay. When you scratch you are cutting off the flow of nutrients to the surface and destroying hyphal aggregates or future pin sites. When you do this it takes the mycelial network time and energy to recover, thus affecting yield.

This casing exhibited some of the worst overlay I have ever experienced. It was layer upon layer...


It fruited fine eventually with a patch case dusting...


Good luck with your experiment!


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: ATWAR]
    #2501227 - 04/01/04 10:43 AM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Thanks for the info on patching! Next time I'll just do that without the scratch. I was wondering do you patch with 50/50 verm./coir or straight coir?

When I lightly scratched the top 1/8th inch yesterday (not a deep scratch) I also mixed the top with a tiny bit of sterilized coir about an 1/8th inch thick. The reason I did the patch too was because the coir right under the surface was fully colonized and scratching alone wasn't going to really help anything in terms of opening it up. With what I know now, I should have only patched (live and learn).

By the way, I think the root of what went wrong was the time right after the initiation itself. The coir was less forgiving of the 48 hours after initiation when the substrate the temperatures stayed around 80F while the room was about 76F. That time promoted more rapid vegetive growth which I didn't want. The reason I didn't drop the temperature more was because I was gone that time and the room stayed warmer than I expected. If I had dropped the temperature a little more faster, the overlay probably wouldn't have happened.

By the way, the middle-of-the-substrate probe has really helped me with this run. I never had one in there before, and it opened my eyes. During the colonization run of the horse manure, I really saw how much a bed heats up. In the past, I'd been running the room WAY too hot for horse manure (which probably has led to some failures before and cores of around 93F). Now I know that running horse manure is more a matter of keeping the bed cool, not incubating it like you do jars. A bed of horse manure creates more than enough heat to incubate itself.


Edited by Blue Helix (04/01/04 10:51 AM)


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2506252 - 04/01/04 06:42 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

Personally, I patched with the same casing mix, not straight coir because I've always found that coir (especially coir on the surface) dries out so quickly. While on the subject, I'll elaborate on my method of handling a casing, particularly a coir/verm one.

#1 Pay impecable attention to getting the casing depth even and level
#2 Thorough mixing and wetting of the casing mix before application makes the casing uniform in composition and moisture content.
1 & 2 help ensure as even a casing run as possible
#3 The first growth to be seen is usually a few dime or quarter sized patches on the surface. Immediatly patch these spots with a very thin layer of fresh casing, roughly double the area of each spot.
#4 Initiate pinning imediately

For me, this casing mix and strategy yielded the best results. Since the coir/verm mix is ready for initiation the second the mycelium reaches the surface, it is usually a day or two ahead of a peat casing which usually needs to wait for mycelia to be in 20-50% of the "valleys".

Good observation on those bed temps! Personally, I think this scenario applies to all bulk substrates be it staight straw, manure compost whatever. I've also noticed that higher spawn rates yield higher bed temps, which may be why I noticed so much thermogensis on all bulk substrates (why bother with low spawn rates?). I don't think I ever once incubated a bulk substrate at higher than room temps other than a few early experiments, most of which ended in bacterial contamination which is a common symptom of high temperature damage.

Good luck with your future experiments.


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Re: 50/50 Coco Coir versus 50/50 Peat Moss [Re: Blue Helix]
    #2520099 - 04/02/04 10:42 PM (12 years, 8 months ago)

UPDATE

The patched coir casing is pinning well (and the peat-based side is almost ready to harvest), yet the meclium is starting to colonize through even the coir patching material very fast. Within a week, it'll be totally overlaid again and require a repatch. And in the mixed area of the peat moss and coir, I see overlay too! Before anyone says this "isn't overlay because it's not matted with dead mycellium" let me clairfy that mycellium should not, ideally, be running heavily on the surface of the casing PERIOD, dead or alive. Mycellium should not colonize the casing as a substrate since that's the definition of a casing, a material that is not consumed yet supports the substrate under as a water reservoir. This is why books like The Mushroom Cultivator have pictures showing casings without any mycellium running on the surface except if demonstrating what overlay looks like.

So in conclusion, the cori-vermiculite casing does not show, at least for me, the type of performance required for a true casing. If coir going to work well in my setup, it must be re-patched--and I mean the whole tray, not just the mushroom picking holes--each and every flush. Maybe coir works better in other less humid setups or maybe it'd be a good addition to peat moss in very low ratios, but for my situation, I give coir a thumbs down. I don't want to be worried about patching constantly since it'd end up more trouble than it would be worth. I may experiment with coir as an amendment to a peat-moss-based casing, but I think that's it. Coir also might be a good choice for other edible mushrooms, and I'd be very interested in trying that.

By the way, when I started this experiment, I really wanted coir to work well because it's much cleaner, easier to level out, is not as prone to oversaturation, is reportedly less prone to green mold, etc., but I cannot deny that in this experiment the coir-vermiculite casing has twice colonized like a substrate, not a traditional casing. Judging from the results of this experiment, a vermiculite/coir casing is not well suited for cubensis except if regularly patched.

Below are some pictures showing the peat and coir-based casings today:

Peat-based casing pinning


Surface of Peat - notice that the mycelium does not consume the surface around the pins


Surface of coir-based casing 48 hours after having been patched with an 1/8th inch of pure coir - notice that the patch coir is already being consumed by the mycellium, which will soon render the casing fully colonized (overlaid) again in a week or so.


Edited by Blue Helix (04/03/04 02:04 AM)


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