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A spore syringe is a syringe filled with tiny mushroom spores which is used to inoculate various substrates used for mushroom cultivation. The syringe contains a solution of sterile water and hydrated mushroom spores collected from a mature mushroom. You see, when a mushroom matures and breaks its veil, it begins to drop tiny spores, seeding the area to perpetuate the species. Collection of these spores allows you to reproduce a specific mushroom variety or gene and is an economical and effective way to inoculate mushroom substrates. This process is referred to as the collection of a spore print.
A word on cleanliness and environmental concerns:
Mushrooms are a finicky fungus. To grow, they rely on ideal conditions which typically involve maintaining adequate temperatures and humidity. Additionally, mushrooms are susceptible to contamination from bacteria and mold. A contaminate can at minimum, quickly destroy your whole operation, and even worse, create a potentially dangerous situation for you. This is why cleanliness is of the utmost importance when cultivating mushrooms at home.
What you will need to collect a spore print:
- Clean working area
- Disinfectant spray
- Rubbing alcohol
- Exacto knife or scalpel
- Lighter or
- Surgical gloves or equivalent
- Paper towels
- Aluminium foil
- Glass jar or shot glass
- Distilled water
The process of collecting a spore sample is as follows:
- Identify a mushroom, or mushrooms, that you wish to clone. Once selected you will want to wait until just after the veil of the mushroom breaks free from the cap. This is when the mushroom begins to drop spores.
- Prep your utensils and working area.
- Work in a clean area with minimal airflow.
- Spray Lysol or other disinfectant spray to kill any airborne contaminants
- Wipe down all working surfaces and ALL utensils with rubbing alcohol
- Sterilize your scalpel or Exacto knife with heat. Place the blade over the flame until it turns red hot. Remove from heat and set down on a clean surface.
- Wash your hands thoroughly, and using a pair of Sterile Nitrile or comparable gloves, harvest your specimen(s) by grabbing the stem close to the base and gently twisting.
- Remove the mushroom cap by cutting it from the stem as close to the cap as possible.
- Set the cap gills down on a piece of clean aluminium foil
- Place one drop of water on the top of the cap and cover with a jar or shot glass
- Let sit for 12-24 hours
- Remove the jar and the cap, exposing the spore print.
- Fold over the aluminium foil and store for future use.
Hypothetically our newly collected spores can germinate/spawn directly to a substrate (growing medium), however, without proper hydration, it is unlikely for these spores to take off and colonize our substrate. Therefore, the next step in our process is to create the spore syringes which will hydrate the spores and create an easy means of inoculation.
Depending on the concentration you desire, one spore print can create several spore syringes.
The materials needed for making a spore syringe are listed below:
- Pair of sterilized tweezers
- A spore print( dependent on size)
- Empty sterile syringe(s) with needles (16-18 gauge)
- Sterilized scalpel or Exacto knife
- Pressure cooker
- Shot Glass or glass container
- Sterilized water
Procedures to follow when making a spore syringe
1. Sterilization of water:
The first thing you will need is to sterilize the water that we will be using in the syringe. Sterilization is necessary to destroy any micro-organisms in the water which may cause contamination of your culture.
You may purchase pre-sterilized water here, but if you want to do it yourself here is the process:
The proper method of sterilizing water is to place filtered water in a sealed container, such as a mason jar. The amount of water you use is up to you. I generally will fill a pint container and put on a lid with an injection port so that it may be used many times over, however you can use just as much water as will fit in the number of syringes you are intending to fill.
You will then place your jar in a pressure cooker and fill the pressure cooker with enough water so that it does not all boil away during sterilization – I like to fill it up so that roughly ¼ of the jar is submerged in water. Place the pressure cooker on a heating element to allow the pressure to build to 15 psi.
Let the pressure cooker sit at that pressure/temperature for a minimum of 40 minutes. Remove the heat and allow it to cool off completely. Cooling off might take several hours and is an essential precaution. Not allowing proper cooldown may put your spores at risk of being damaged as the temperature might be too harsh for survival. Remove the cool jar and set aside for use.
In a crunch, I have simply purchased filtered water, placed in a covered pot, and boiled for a minimum of 40 minutes; with varied results. Do this sloppy method at your own risk.
2. Sterilization of equipment:
Sterilization of your working area and all equipment is not a step to be taken lightly. You will want to spray an air sanitizer, wipe all surfaces, utensils, and containers down with rubbing alcohol, and flame sterilize your scalpel and tweezers.
To flame sterilize you will use a lighter or gas burner to heat the blade of the knife and end of the tweezers. Keep over the flame until the metal glows red. Then remove and allow to cool for 20 to 30 seconds before use.
3. Putting spores in water:
Now, depending on how much water you sterilized, you will open and wipe down your needles with alcohol. Flame sterilize the tip just as we did with the scalpel. From here you will fill your needles with the sterilized water, pulling back the plunger until full then placing the sterile cap over the needle. Set aside for use in a moment.
Remove the spore print from its storage pack, unfold if folded in aluminium foil. Avoid hand contact with the spore print at all costs. Instead, make use of the sterilized scalpel to scrape a small number of spores from the foil to a clean shot glass or container. Only a small amount is needed, but the more you put in the syringe, the faster it will colonize. I would start with ¼ to ½ of the print.
4. Filling the spore syringe:
Remove the cap from the needle and begin to fill the shot glass filled with spores with water from your first syringe by pushing gently on the plunger. Once empty, put the syringe needle into the water spore mixture and pull the plunger back to collect the contents of the shot glass. Place cap over the needle and store for future use.