Green moulds are potentially a significant source of losses in the mushroom production. In Poland between 2002 and 2007 the losses amounted to a few percent. In some cases the losses were so large that they threatened the very existence of compost companies or farms producing the mushroom on Phase 2 compost. The description of the situation can be found in a publication Zielone pleśnie w uprawie pieczarki (Green Moulds and Mushroom Crop), PWRiL, 2009.
What is the situation now? Long-term losses caused by the green moulds are not present anymore. They are rather incidental, usually after a period of summer and winter compost production. However, due to ever decreasing profitability of mushroom production, the losses are more and more severe. In this situation a question can be posed: is the problem of losses in the mushroom production caused by the green moulds solved to a satisfactory level or is it still waiting to be resolved? The answer depends on the adopted assumption explaining the mechanism in which the losses are made. Currently, there are two approaches to explain the situation:
The infection and development of green moulds colonies during the cropping. The amount of loss depends on species that occupy the crops, the moment the infection came about, the mushroom development conditions and the green mould attacking the cropping. In case of losses caused by aggressive species Trichoderm,agresivum in theory a small infection with large losses is generally accepted. In this approach a satisfactory solution is achieved when the threatening species of green mould are examined thoroughly, an agent is found to protect the compost against the development and/or species of mushroom are grown immune to the green moulds. From this perspective the solution seems difficult to achieve and is not satisfying enough because of the costs necessary to incur, especially the costs of examining, protective agents or the purchase and implementation of the new species. The solution to this problem can be reached by conducting a scientific examination.
Improper compost production technology and cropping errors. The losses caused by the green mould are a result of:
- the application of improper compost production in Phase 1 technology that do not eradicate the spores of mould present in the straw or chicken litter;
- errors in the compost overgrowth allowing for rivalry between the green mould and the mushroom spawn;
- mushroom spawn dying out in the compost or casing as a result of compost rotting or its overheating and the use of chemical products.
If this problem is dealt with in this fashion, there are no extra costs to incur. In this publication I would like to explain this approach further. In the last three years the eradication of the mentioned causes protected the mushroom cropping against losses caused by the green moulds in those farms in Poland which adopted the approach, eradicating the pointed out causes.
The provided assumptions explain the efficacy of this approach.
1.The largest losses in the mushroom production caused by the green moulds when they are present in the compost prior to its overgrowth by the mushroom spawn.
2.The reason for their presence in the compost are resting spores known as chlamydospores. Both the spawn and the conidial spores are successfully destroyed during the compost production process, pasteurisation process and the compost growth process. Similarly, when they get into the mushroom environment they are easily destroyed by it. This means that the compost production technology must have a mechanism that activates and destroys chlamydospores. The destruction of chlamydospores during the compost production process is currently the only mechanism to avoid the losses caused by the aggressive green mould species. There is a control system that detects the green moulds in the compost plant in every Phase of production. The system also allows for identification of the green mould species in the compost and the mushroom production companies.
3.The mushroom production is based on composting with the participation of mushrooms in oxygen conditions. During the composting process there is a hot phase whose task is to sanitise compost and cold phase in which the process of composting in continued. In case of mushrooms the equivalent of the hot phase is the Phase 1 and Phase 2 preparation and the cold phase is the occupation of the compost and casing by the mushroom and its cropping. This means that during the composting process the very nature has created a mechanism that gets rid of harmful organisms from the developing compost that disturb the process. Moreover, a production technology should be developed so that harmful organisms can be eliminated.
4.The green moulds are a group of various fungi causing different losses in the mushroom cropping. Using this criterion we can point out species which can be found in the mushroom crop and do not cause any loss. These are Aspergillus and Penicillium from the Aspergillacea family – cosmopolitan fungi. The reason for their existence is ineffective disinfection or the fact that the spawn in the compost or casing has died out. The next group causing losses are Trichoderma species which compete with the mushroom for the compost. These can be divided, considering the relation with the mushroom spawn, into nonaggressive, e.g. Trichoderma harzianum and aggressive (parasite), e.g. Trichoderma agresivum. In the Phase 2 composts the losses are most frequently caused by the green moulds deriving from the rival and aggressive groups and the Phase 3 by aggressive species.
5.The basic mechanisms for the mushroom production protection against the losses caused by the green moulds include:
a)The destruction of chlamydospores during the compost production in Phase 1. Here the most significant are the conditions and the mesophilic stage and even hydration of the straw and the frequency of shifts.
b)The preservation of oxygen conditions in the compost during its production and cropping. During the compost production allowing too much air to enter should be avoided as this would result in large loss of ammonia which has a negative impact on the compost selectivity;
c)Appropriate conditions for overgrowth in particular for compost overgrowth on shelves. If they are not appropriate, the chlamydospores of rival fungi as well as parasites can create colonies and favour their development, diminishing the mushroom rival conditions. The main mushroom defence mechanism is to produce the hydrogen peroxide and using it to destroy the spores of the nonaggressive green mould. Significantly better conditions for overgrowth in the tunnel and mixing of the compost when it’s taken out from the tunnel and when it’s loaded on the shelf explain why on the compost at Phase 3 of the cropping, the mushrooms are threatened mainly by the green mould aggressive species. It is because the resting spores in the compost at Phase 1 have not been destroyed;
d)Not allowing for the spawn to die out in the overgrow process; overheating and rotting of the compost, the improper application of chemicals products destroying the spawn or allowing for the spawn to dry out;
e)A significant decrease in the reaction in the compost and casing;
f)Ineffective cleaning and disinfection – mainly floors and racks, machines, in particular those used in the compost loading.
The greatest impact on the losses has the primary infection of the compost. The significance of secondary infection is minor. The attempts to infect the compost at different stages after the compost overgrowth did not cause any commercial losses. The secondary infections are important when there has been a drastic limitation of hygiene allowing for the green mould to spread. A particular threat, in case of secondary infections, are mats infected with Trichoderma agresivum, if the composts of Phase 2 are used. In the pasteurizing tunnels the reason behind it could ventilation or bad siphoning.
When taking this approach it is not important what green mould species threaten the crop. It is important to manage the production that will eliminate the resting forms of the green moulds.