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Registered: 05/11/01
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Benefits of Agar?
    #356617 - 07/18/01 03:11 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)

I was just wondering why anyone would want to cultivate with agar? Aren't syringes just so much easier? I know that agar can be used for cloning a mushroom but why would you use it with spores? I bought one of those homestead mushroom kits like 6 years ago and it came with 12 plates, loop, scalpel, spores, compost, agar, 2 test tubes, etc. Since I was a newbie, I didn't know shit! Only one plate out of 12 was succesful. I later took a chunk of the agar and put it in some sterilized bird seed. This was later-on dumped into the compost. Anyways... just wondering why anyone would want to use agar in petri dishes? Feedback please =)

- Celsius

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Re: Benefits of Agar? [Re: celsius]
    #356629 - 07/18/01 03:35 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)

Agar is a powerful tool for those of us that want more control over what we are growing.

It is especially helpful in isolating viable mycelium away from contaminates present in a poorly made print, using only a small percentage of the spores on that print. Syringes are more of the shotgun approach. A contaminated print = a useless syringe. A ready-made purchased contaminated syringe = a useless syringe. But a contaminated print can be used with good agar technique, especially with some speciality antibiotic formulas to reduce contaminates.

The amount of spores needed with agar is tiny. A modest cubensis sporeprint should contain enough spores to streak hundreds of plates and produce cultures for years.

You can clone nice looking mushrooms for regrowing. You can isolate a superior strain instead of growing a mix of good and bad strains present in spore syringes. You can do some crossbreeding experiments with single spore germinations.

It is more of an advance method and not for everyone. If you are happy using syringes and they work for you, it is the easier road. But I prefer agar. I wouldn't have been able to grow out the mexicana without it. I was unable to acquire mexicana spores but I did get my hands on some dried mexicana mushrooms. With a little luck I extracted a bit of gill tissue and placed it on agar hoping for a few clinging viable spores. It grew a lot of contaminates, but not so much that I wasn't able to isolate away from it. The culture eventually produced the Psilocybe mexicana mushrooms displayed at the site posted in my signature.

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Re: Benefits of Agar? [Re: celsius]
    #356640 - 07/18/01 04:01 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)

i always thought agar was used so you can innoculate alot of (whatever youre substrate is) with only a few spores. it also makes youre substrate colonize faster too. for people like you and me its just too much of a hassle to use agar. if we had a sterile lab with lots of supplys and performing experiments by cloning shrooms and cross breeding and inventing new strains then it would help to use agar. i always wondered if you could make a substrate with agar and have shrooms grow from it, its mycellium isnt it?

just because you stick feathers up youre butt does not make you a chicken.

the little kridders of nature; they dont know that thyre ugly!

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Re: Benefits of Agar? [Re: aluminum_can]
    #356693 - 07/18/01 08:51 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)

Agar is great for all the reasons Workman stated. You don't need a lab, the kitchen counter works well as long as it's clean and you nuke the area with Lysol. The first time I tried growing shrooms, I grew out spores on agar. Granted, I was comfortable with the method as I'd had some micro experience in college. I didn't know what syringes were used for until I came here! I've wanted to experiment with morel mycelium for awhile, which I'm doing now. There's no way I could do that without agar due to cloning and contam issues.

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Re: Benefits of Agar? [Re: aluminum_can]
    #356694 - 07/18/01 08:55 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)

> always wondered if you could make a substrate with agar
> and have shrooms grow from it
Agar is expensive, there are much cheaper and better substrates


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Re: Benefits of Agar? [Re: Anno]
    #356725 - 07/18/01 11:00 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)

I just started cloning with agar recently, and it's amazing how much control one has with the stuff. It's not so much a substrate as it is a first step in the entire process, before the substrate is inoculated with the mycelium grown on agar. It's also preferred when a pure strain is desired.
P.S. I buy my agar at an asian supermarket for $1.50 an ounce. It's really not that expensive if you find the right place to get it.

Edited by MattyB on 07/18/01 10:01 AM.

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Re: Benefits of Agar? [Re: Anno]
    #356731 - 07/18/01 11:02 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)


What is a better substrate? MEA? Cloning sounds like a lot of work but it can also be rewarding. Maybe when I get bored of my syringes I'll start with petri dishes. Is it true that you can store the fully colonized petri dishes in the refrigerator for a very long time? How long could you possibly store these dishes for? I am looking forward to growing with them. =)

- Celsius

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Re: Benefits of Agar? [Re: celsius]
    #356738 - 07/18/01 11:28 AM (15 years, 3 months ago)

>What is a better substrate?
Compost, straw, rye, birdseed...
MEA= Malt Extract Agar
>Is it true that you can store the fully colonized petri dishes in
>the refrigerator for a very long time?
> How long could you possibly store these dishes for?
A few months, up to 6.
Long term storage:
(First published in in _Mushroom,the Journal_, Winter 1998 edition,
with clarifications added by the author, April 1998.)

Copyright(c)1998 by Joseph C. Kish, All Rights Reserved.


Resurrecting a Better Method for Long-Term Storage of Mushroom Cultures

by Joseph C. Kish *** clarifications

Sooner or later every mushroomer with an interest in edible fungi
ends up with a collection of cultures, and then there is the problem
of storage. I began searching for better methods for storing my
cultures a long time ago.

Agar Slants:

The usual method of storage is in slants on nutrient agar. This
works fine short term, but many strains start losing viability when
kept on a single nutrient for an extended period. Every couple of
months they need to be moved to an agar with a different nutrient.
Some strains of Agaricus appear to start the dying process anyway,
as though agar is not the media they prefer.

Rating: 2 bells.

Mineral Oil:

Overlaying the slants with sterile mineral oil keeps the sample
from drying out, and acts as an oxygen barrier. The oil increases
The time between transfers to about six onths, however, the cultures
must be refrigerated, and the oil is messy.

Rating: 1 bell.

Deep Freeze:

It would really be nice to have access to liquid nitrogen, that
stores cultures at -384F (-196 C), that essentially stops all of the
metabolic activity. If I had that resource, the cultures would store
indefinitely. I tried using a chest freezer at -5 F (-18C).

The culture is mixed with glycerol (glycerin from the drugstore)
to prevent ice crystals from damaging the culture. It is stored as
a frozen mush in slants. This method stores quite well, but many
mushroomers do not have access to a chest freezer. Refrigerator
freezers kill the cultures, as they cycle high and low.

Rating: 2 bells.

Sawdust / Spawn:

Most cultures will colonize in sawdust. Small baby-food jars 2/3
full of hardwood sawdust (80%), wheat bran (15%), gypsum (5%) is
moistened to perfection and sterilized. The jars are inoculated.

When fully colonized, they are refrigerated. A single grain of
spawn is transferred to an agar plate to start a new copy. This
method stores cultures for more than a year. The best yet.

Rating: 4 bells.

Distilled Water:

I came upon an article written by Michael D.Graham,a microbiologist
at ATCC (1) that described the storage of yeast in sterile distilled
water. What a brilliant idea! If that method stores yeast, It should
work well on gourmet mushroom cultures, too. It's easy to do, very
space efficient, allows the cultures to be stored at room temperature,
and maintains thier viability for years. I contacted the author, he
indicated that edible fungi stores even better than yeast, and you can
store the spores as well as the hyphae often for decades!

Rating: 10 bells.

Sterile water was first used to preserve cultures by Castellani
in 1939 (2). Since then, many scientists have used this method;
McGinnis et al. in 1974 (3) and Odds in 1991 (4) reported that they
were able to maintain viable cultures for more than three years,
without degredation.

This technique satisfies many different interests: Castellani's
pathogenic fungi, Odds interest was in pathogenic yeast, and McGinnis'
interest was in a wide range of fungi, yeast, and bacteria. The
distilled water preserved all of them.

I suggest you obtain copies of these scientific papers from your
University library, and you'll be impressed, too.

Storage Method:

Obtain dram vials from your laboratory supplier and fill them
about half full (about 3mL) with distilled water, loosly cap the
vials and sterilize them in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes @250 F.

Half dram vials or test tubes with screw caps would also work well.

*** About six milliliters of sterile distilled water is pipetted
aseptically into a freshly growing culture. The fragments of hyphae
are dislodged by lightly scraping the aerial growth with the same
pipette, and the resulting suspension is withdrawn and transferred
to a sterile glass vial. Put plenty of inoculum into each vial to
insure success.

Screw the lid on tight and wrap Parafilm around the top of the
vial to make sure it is airtight.

When you come back in a few years,you would not want to find that
the water had evaporated.

Store the vials at room temperature away from direct sunlight. A
bookshelf or wall cabinet is an excellent place. If conditions
deteriorate, and the room should become unbearably hot, the vials can
be refrigerated, but that is not normally necessary.

In the distilled water envirnment, the mushroom culture enters a
dormant state, and it is held in stasis.

The Rude Awakening:

Under aseptic conditions, simply dip a sterile loop into the vial,
*** and streak the mycellia-rich water onto an agar plate.
It will start to reanimate on being in a nutrient source and oxygen.

The first four methods keep cultures alive with three items: food,
water, and oxygen. If they lack any of these, It's goodbye. Instead
of trying to keep them alive,there is a better way: In sterile distilled
water, with no food, oxygen, or minerals.

This method was in use almost 60 years ago, but was apparently lost
due to lack of communication.


(1) M.D.Graham, "A Simple,Practical Method for Long Term Storage
of Yeast", Brewing Techniques 5, March/April (1997), pp 58-62

(2) S.Castellani,"Viability of Some Pathogenic Fungi in Distilled
Water", Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 42,
pp 225-226 (1939)

(3) M.R.McGinnis,A.A.Padhye,and L. Ajello,"Storage of Stock
Cultures of Filamentous Fungi,Yeasts, and Some Aerobic
Actinomycetes in Sterile Distilled Water", Applied
Microbiology 28, pp 218-222 (1974)

(4) F.C.Odds, "Long Term Laboratory Preservation of Pathogenic
Yeast in Water",Journal of Medical and Veterinary Mycology 29,
pp 413-415(1991)

= Article distributed by The+mycoculture@teleport.com, a private email =
= distribution service sponsored by members of the Cultivation Interest =
= Group of the Oregon Mycological Society. =

From the mycoculture.org archives, additional info on water storage, including a quote from PF on cubensis storage, where he answers the age-old question, "How long will my spore syringe last?":

From: "Perf. Fungi E."
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 22:22:33 +1
Subject: Quotes about water storage
Below is a compilation of texts about the water storage
method, which I found today.
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES. Transfer of Technology for Development
(Amsterdam) and Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural
co-operation (Wageningen), ISBN 90 70857 22 7, p 256:
"A simple technique is to grow the culture on an agar medium
and to keep small pieces of colonizad agar floating in
demineralized water. If 100 ml bottles are used, then these
should be fille with 75 ml demineralized water. Sterilize the
bottles for two hours, let them cool, then transfer
aseptically small pieces from the agar culture. Put about
three to four pieces of 0.5 x 0.5 square centimeters in each
bottle. Always inoculate at least three bottles per strain, so
some contamination occurs then there is still a back-up.
Strains can easily be recovered by taking a piece of the agar
out of the water and transferring it to a new slant. This
operation is not as messy as the mineral oil technique.
Strains can be kept for at least one year without losing
vigour (Exept for VOLVARIELLA VOLVACEA, which cannot stand
prolonged storage at temperatures below 12 centigrade)."
The following quote is taken from Smith, D. and Onions,
SECOND EDITION (1994), CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon.
ISBN: 0 85198 902 0
(italics in the original text are replaced by CAPITALS)
The method used at the International Mycological Institute
(IMI) is as follows:
1. 6mm cubed agar blocks are cut from the growing edge of a
fungal colony.
2. The blocks are placed in sterile distilled water in
McCartney bottles and the lids are tightly screwed down,
they are stored at 20-25 centigrade.
3. Retrieval is by removal of a block and placing, mycelium
down, on a suitable medium.
Storage periods of 2-3 years have been obtained with species
of PHYTOPHTHORA and PYTHIUM at IMI before any loss of
viability was noted (Onions&Smith, 1984). These cultures
showed some deterioration in pathogenicity but the majority
were able to infect their host. Viability deteriorated rapidly
after 2 years storage and 42% (21/50) of the isolates were
dead at 5 years.
Growth may sometimes occur during storage in water. This will
be reduced if the spores or hyphae are removed from the
surface of agar media and no medium is transferred.
This method of storage was originally described by Castellani
(1939, 1967) who stored fungi pathogenic to man. Figueiredo
(1967) was able to keep 22 plant pathogens without any loss in
pathogenicity. Figueiredo & Pimentel (1975) subsequently
reported 10 years of successful storage by this means.
Boeswinkel (1976) stored 650 plant pathogens including
representatives of the OOMYCOTA, ASCOMYCOTA, BASIDIOMYCOTA and
mitotic fungi. They all remained viable and pathogenic for 7
years. Clark & Dick (1974) reported successful results with
Daniel (1976) with ectomycorrhizal plant pathogens.
Boeswinkel, H.J. (1976) Storage of fungal cultures in water.
Castellani, A. (1939) Viability of some pathogenic fungi in
sterile distilled water. JOURNAL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AND
HYGIENE 42, 225-226.
Castellani, A. (1967) Maintenance and cultivation of common
pathogenic fungi of man in sterile distilled water. Further
Ellis, J.J. (1979) Preserving fungus strains in sterile water.
MYCOLOGIA 71, 1072-1075
Figueiredo, M.B. (1967) Estudes sobre a aplicacao de
Castellani para conservacao de fungos patogenos en plantas.
BIOLOGICO 33, 9-15.
Figueiredo, M.B. & Pimentel C.P.V. (1975) Metodos utilizados
para conservacao de fungos na micoteca de Secao de Micologia
Fitopatologica de Instituto Biologico. SUMMA PHYTOPATHOLOGICA
1, 299-302
Marx, D.H. & Daniel, W.J. (1976) Maintaining cultures of
ectomycorrhizal and plant pathogenic fungi in sterile water
cold storage. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF MICROBIOLOGY 22, 338-341
Onions, A.H.S.&Smith, D. (1984) Current status of culture
preservation and technology. In: CRITICAL PROBLEMS OF CULTURE
COLLECTIONS (edited by L.R. Batra&T. Iigima). Osaka: Institute
of Fermentation Osaka"


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